What will you do to a heap of information and tons of it where it could be found in bulks of newspapers, magazines, catalogue, forms, hours of live or recorded videos and documentary, websites url and other long listings of information documents ?
As cliché’ as it sounds, all these documents will be categorized, described and saved in boxes, subdivision in libraries, archives and offices racks. On the fortunate part, it will be recorded scientifically with all its metadata and is enabled to be searched through using retrieval system. This however, could not satisfy the user who do not know what documents he want to search in the first place and wanted an overview of the whole document in a very fast, reliable and easy to access before he can determine the exact documents or to be able to understand the whole concept of the data group before he can make any decision. Thus, visualization is needed to cover these needs. As it became more and more popular research field studies nowadays, IV will serve as a platform to help users to organize data and focus.
This exciting field is meant to represent a large amount of information, semantics and meaning in an orderly and user controlled environment. It received a lot of perceptual considerations from many prominent researchers in other fields ranging from psychologist like (Bertin 1983), statisticians (Cleveland 1993) and designers like (Tufte 1983, 1990). Their involvement in this field is not only superficial but indeed it serves as a platform before IV really became a research field. For example graphics is needed so that users can use this to draw in real-time. At the same time, the understanding of cognitive psychology is craved for to find appropriate representation while Human Computer Interaction is used to guide design and evaluation.
“Information Visualization draws ideas from several intellectual traditions including computer graphics, human-computer interaction, cognitive psychology, semiotics, graphic design, cartography and art”. (Munzner 2002:20)
Thus, in defining IV, derivation from prominent researchers in the field is keen, a few definition are listed as follows:
“Transformation of the symbolic into the geometric” (McCormick et al. 1987)
“A method of presenting data or information in non-traditional, interactive graphical forms. By using 2-D or 3-D color graphics and animation, these visualizations can show the structure of information, allow one to navigate through it, and modify it with graphical interactions. “(UIUC DLI 1998)
“…it is a process of forming a mental model of data, thereby gaining insight into that data “(Spence 2001)
“Information visualization, an increasingly important sub discipline within HCI, focuses on graphical mechanisms designed to show the structure of information and improve the cost of access to large data repositories. In printed form, information visualization has included the display of numerical data (e.g., bar charts, plot charts, pie charts), combinatorial relations (e.g., drawings of graphs), and geographic data (e.g., encoded maps). Computer-based systems, such as the information visualizer and dynamic queries have added interactivity and new visualization techniques (e.g., 3D, animation). “(Averbuch 2004)
“Visual representations of the semantics, or meaning, of information. In contrast to scientific visualization, information visualization typically deals with nonnumeric, nonspatial, and high-dimensional data. (Chen 2005:12)
“Information visualization is the communication of abstract data through the use of interactive visual interfaces. (Keim et al. 2006:9)
Certainly, IV is a very unique visualization in which it is a subset of a Computer Science studies .Visualization, on the other hand as defined from InfoVis Wiki as a “graphical representation of data or concepts which is either an internal construct of the mind or an external artifacts supporting decision making.” (Ware 2001 and Tori & Moller 2004). Visualization in general is categorized in three categories which are: Scientific Visualization (Schroeder, Martin, and Lorensen 1998), IV (VDI 1997) and Virtual Reality (Loeffler and Anderson 1994).
As opposed to IV, Scientific Visualization deals with physically –based data and is a tool to help scientist or researcher to view scientific data and its phenomena. Often it will involve some 3D simulation and presentation in well defined space coordinates and mapped to screen coordinates. Some of the recent examples are the 3D model of a human body project (Banvard & Richard 2002) and 3D simulation for problem of nano-assembly automation and its application for medicine (Cavalcanti et al. 2008).
While Virtual Reality is simply 3D, computer generated, simulated environment that is real-time in recording. Usually it will utilize the 3D software and 3D world to enhance the interface with the user. Virtual Reality has also been referred to as artificial reality, cyberspace and environments. (Tegarden 1999). For example 3D Maze project (Schnabel & Thomas 2005)
Information as defined in Oxford English Dictionary is facts or knowledge provided or learned. While in the field itself, information means items, entity, objects, very abstract and involves non-spatial data (Tory & Moller 2004). For example, attributes of a car, market trends, results of survey based on staff database.
IV as a field evolved as an approach to make large quantities of complex information intelligible. As Gristin and Ward (2002) mention the purpose of it is not replace good solid quantitative analysis but to allow quantitative analysis to be focused. Thus, users can use their unique spatial visuals capabilities to determine on the decision and further exploration.
It is perhaps a good overview to delve upon the IV history to further understand from where this area has adopted techniques, theories and analysis evolve.