The Landscape of Difference

Aside from The Spectrum of Difference, there can also be The Landscape of Difference which places participants in two and three dimensional positions according to multiple criteria. For example, the leader can prompt, “What do you prefer: pie, or cake?” Players place themselves on the imaginary line in a continuum as they each see fit. But then the line becomes a landscape by prompting: “From the general area where you’re standing, cake people: move to this side of the line if you’re into white cake, this side of the line if you’re into chocolate cake, and stay on the line if you’re into specialty cakes like marble, yellow, or red velvet. Pie people: from the general area where you’re standing, move to this side of the line if you’re into fruit pies, this side of the line if you’re into cream pies, and stay on the line if you’re into other pies like mincemeat or pecan.” The landscape can become even more dimensional if you ask: “From where you’re standing, raise you hand high if you’d like a cold beverage with that dessert, or just a thumbs up if you’d prefer a hot beverage.”

The Landscape of Difference positioning techniques can now be applied to more complex or nuanced prompts for participants to explore. Explore only topics you and the group feel comfortable with. Discuss the individual and collective process and results after each set of prompts:

  • First Dimension (on the line): “I know who I am,” or “I’m still searching for my identity”

Second Dimension (on either side of the line): “Other people have had more influence on who I am,” or “I myself create who I am”

Third Dimension (hands up or thumbs up): “I’ve got a lot of work to do,” or “I’m OK for now”

  • First Dimension: “Public Parking,” or “No Trespassing”

Second Dimension: “On the ground,” or “In the air”

Third Dimension: “Maybe,” or “Maybe not”

Advanced or willing groups can even explore a fourth dimension: movement in time. From the third dimension position, players can create a self-sculpted image, repeated gesture, or whole body movement that synthesizes and embodies the three-dimensions’ prompts. For a fifth dimension, players add repeated, evocative sounds or keywords to accompany their movement.

The Spectrum and Landscape of Difference are gaming diagnostics to assess the varying perspectives of the group, but they are also exercises to explore how qualitative data analysts can map out the properties and dimensions of data. After several rounds of play, the discussion can focus on how we interpret and write about these diverse positions and clusters of meaning in our reports. Discussion can also focus on how these three-dimensional displays can transfer into drawn displays on paper or as graphics with computing software.