Webbing Complex Relationships
A Concept Map or outline works well for visualizing the information in a lecture or a book because these are generally structures with main ideas and secondary and further levels of ideas or information. There are many kinds of information, however, that are not connected in this logical way.
The most familiar of these relationships are ecological relationships. We sometimes speak of a food chain. Here we begin with a plant that is eaten by an insect that is eaten by a frog that is eaten by a snake who is eaten by a hawk.
In a more complete image of the interrelationships in this environment, there are many different kinds of plants, each eaten by a wide variety of insects. While many of these insects are eaten by the frog, others are not. And there may be many hundreds of other small animals that also ate the insects, and so we continue through the web. We can never describe or even know all of the relationships in this complex food web.
The simple ecological web on the left begins to show some of the interrelationships. We see the sun as the source of energy, a variety of plants, one example, the mussels, that eat both tiny plants and tiny animals. It is interesting that nothing is shown that eats the mussels. The dragonfly larvae and, I’m sure, the larva of a large number of insects like the better known mosquito larvae, are shown as major sources of food for the fish. And while we see the little fish eaten by the bigger fish, eaten by the biggest fish, it is more complex than this. The Walleye eats the perch, but the Pike eats both the Walleye and Perch. And people eat all three of them. If we ate more of the Perch, which is lower on the food chain, it would be a more efficient use of energy.
The picture on the right shows the food web of a Salt Marsh community. Most students are familiar with this sort of visual. It is much nicer to look at than my crude diagram but it hasn’t added much information. It does label categories: producers (the plants), herbivores (plant eaters) first level carnivores, top-level carnivores, and decomposers (bacteria, worms, etc that eat the decomposing material).
But the biggest value of this sort of visual is that we can picture the location and see what the organisms look like.
The food web below includes a much larger number of organisms and thus, a far larger number of relationships. But, obviously, there are still any more organisms and relationships that are not shown.
These charts cannot show every detail, but they can help us see the big picture… such as what happens if you remove the water plants, or if you kill of all the insects.
Some of these charts use different colored lines/arrows to hep you visualize the different relationships. For example the lines between the plants (of all sorts) could be green.
And, in addition to the food web, these organisms affect each other in other ways. A bird may use some of the plants to build its nest. Some organisms have symbiotic relationships where they help each other. A bird who eats insects on a cow’s back, is helping the cow, and the bird gets its food because the cow attracts insects.
Other information that can be shown with a similar web include:
1. Passage of the flu or other disease from person to person
2. Passage of information from one person to another… imagine that one person learned that your favorite actor, actress, and singer was going to be on your campus in an hour. That one person puts in on their Facebook and emails twenty of her friends and calls another dozen. Most of those who read it on Facebook won’t read it until the next day. But the forty people who do read it email a couple dozen friends each. Everyone who hears the news passes the word up and down their hall in the dormitory. Every makes a few more phone calls. Before the hour has passed, over half he students will have heard the news. Advertisers would be interested in this flow of information. News of a great new product passes by a similar pathway, though not as quickly.
How can you use a web to process the material you are studying?
1. Idea Web: You might use it as a brainstorming technique. Pick a topic, perhaps the topic for your research paper or to make a speech
. You want to brainstorm before organizing the information. Put three or four main idea words or phrases
somewhere on a large sheet of paper. Look at the first word, and write down the first 3-5 words that you connect with it. Do the same with the other words. If any of the new words are the same, connect them with a line.
Then you can start idea chains:
You look at the Isaac Newton and think apple which makes you think of fruit – basket. (Yes this is a chain you’ll ignore later.
Back to Newton for a new chain – gravity – weight on other planets – weightlessness – space travel.
Back to Newton – Calculus – calculus in math and physics – used in engineering – used in economics –
When you fill the page, you can cross out irrelevant ideas and clump the ideas that look interesting. Slowly you can create your own way of structuring the ideas and information..
2. Influence Web: Study the chain of influence. You could do this in any field.
Let’s try psychology. You would probably begin with Freud. You might take 3-10 psychologists of the next generation and draw connection lines back to Freud if they were strongly influenced by Freud. (They all studied Freud) Then in the next generation of psychologists, connect these with earlier people who influenced them most and so on. You would see where a psychologist appears who has brand new ideas. You could see how various “schools of thought” developed.
It would be interesting to see this done in art or music or cooking.
3. Personal Web: Put your name in the center of a paper. Draw lines out from your name connected to your interests, your hopes, your concerns or questions. You don’t need to do this all at once. Now and then expand on one of your interests or hopes or questions. Some people like doing a collage (pasting pictures or words, or small objects on a background) to express who they are.
If you meet someone you really like, you might do a personal web for the other person, showing what you know of his or her interests, etc.
On the next page are two example of creating webs for groups of people. One is sometimes used by teachers to understand the friendship relationships between their students. The other, done the same way, would be useful in understanding relationships between members of an organization.
I look forward to you leaving comment on other uses you know of, or think of.
To lean more about Human Webbing