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The digital magazine of InfoVis.net

by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 56]

The V International Conference on Information Visualisation has registered an increase in attendance and interest. Infovis.net was there.

The fifth edition of the above-mentioned conference took place in London the 25th – 27th of July 2001. More than 100 papers were presented on world-wide level research about topics like the application of Information Visualisation to construction, medicine, education, parallel and distributed systems programming, geographical information systems and simulation.

On the other hand many papers were presented regarding the enabling techniques like computer graphics, computer aided geometric design (CAGD), multimedia techniques and virtual reality.

The keynote addresses given by Ben Shneiderman from the University of Maryland, Mary Czerwinski from of Microsoft Research and Bob Spence from the Imperial College of London deserve a special mention.

Ben Shneiderman is one of the most prestigious researchers in the Human Computer Interaction field (HCI). He is also co-founder of the company Spotfire Inc. His speech talked about the path form innovation to adoption that Information Visualisation has to follow.

After some years of incubation in the Universities some companies have begun to blossom timidly and have started to commercialise technology based on the findings of research. Many of them are spin-offs of university departments and are made up of professors. Although many of the ideas are bright and innovative they have to jump the "chasm" between the visionaries that have the ideas and the pragmatic people that can put them into practice.

For Shneiderman it's necessary to develop complete product solutions with the end user in mind. Until this moment there have been many innovative ideas with little success, probably due to a lack of focusing.

Ben Shneiderman*

Mary Czerwinski* 

Mary Czerwinski is one of the influential people in the field of Cognitive Psychology applied to Information Visualisation. According to her, the designs carried out by the majority of researchers until now have been led by creativity, handcrafted as "point" designs.

However such advances haven't taken into account the existing knowledge about visual perception and cognition. Information Visualisation should benefit in the future from this knowledge. It's impossible to summarise here her very interesting talk. I recommend you take a look at the slides

It's worth a post-conference reflection:

Information Visualisation is associated excessively to computing and computer graphics. Often we forget that the subject of it is the creation of a mental image to gain insight, understanding, the mental "vision" that's not only visual.

This goal doesn't reside only in the computing domain. The human being has been trying to do that for many centuries on paper, with sound and narrative. Information (and misinformation) has been organised, designed and visualised on a smaller scale, in linear form for centuries.

Although the computer has allowed us to visualise vast amounts of information as no one has seen before, and the advent of hypertext has undermined the traditional knowledge about organisation and design of the information, we mustn't take the trees of technology for the forest of the cognitive and even social implications of Information Visualisation

Note: During the conference we had the opportunity to interview Ben Shneiderman, Mary Czerwinski and Bob Spence. In the next issues you'll see their opinions on the future and present of Information Visualisation

* Photographs courtesy of Ben Shneiderman and Mary Czerwinsky

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