Volume 7 Number 7/8
As the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." Maybe in the past, that ratio was correct; in today’s fast-paced world, a well-designed visual presentation might be worth far more words than that.
Visual presentation of information is not new. You could say that paintings on cave walls such as those at Lascaux, France, or the petroglyphs scratched on natural rock surfaces throughout the world were attempts to convey information visually. What is relatively new is that information visualization has become a field of research and study in its own right.
What is information visualization? In 1995, at the IEEE-sponsored "First Information Visualization Symposium", Gershon and Eich defined information visualization as "… a process of transforming data and information that are not inherently spatial, into a visual form allowing the user to observe and understand the information."
Last month, I attended the First International Workshop on "Visual Interfaces to Digital Libraries". (A report of the workshop is included in this issue of D-Lib Magazine.) While all the workshop presentations were interesting and enlightening, I particularly enjoyed Terry Sullivan’s on visualization evaluation and Kevin Boyack’s on the merging fields of information visualization, human-computer interaction, and cognitive psychology. I was also dazzled by the demonstrations of AuthorLink and ConceptLink by Xia Lin, Drexel University, as well as the 3D-enhanced demonstration of VGeo (Virtual Global Explorer and Observatory) by Virtual Reality Software & Consulting, Inc., sponsors of the workshop. (Links to the workshop slides and papers are at <http://vw.indiana.edu/visual01/jcdl.html>.)
Katy Börner, co-chair of the workshop, stressed the interdisciplinary nature of the field of information visualization, which includes: computer graphics, electronic engineering, information systems, geography, information science and other disciplines.
She also pointed out that innovations in information technologies have led to even greater information overload as the gap widens between the speed with which computers can deliver information and the speed by which humans can process it. According to Börner, "Visual interfaces to digital libraries draw on progress in the information visualization field to shift mental load from slow reading to faster perceptual processes such as visual pattern recognition."
D-Lib Magazine looks forward to observing and reporting on this area as progress is made in the development of visual interfaces to digital libraries.
Copyright (c) 2001 Corporation for National Research Initiatives
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