European Survey of Information Society


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Information visualization

Information visualization or information visualisation is the study of (interactive) visual representations of abstract data to reinforce human cognition. The abstract data include both numerical and non-numerical data, such as text and geographic information. However, information visualization differs from scientific visualization: "its infovis [information visualization] when the spatial representation is chosen, and its scivis [scientific visualization] when the spatial representation is given".
The field of information visualization has emerged "from research in human-computer interaction, computer science, graphics, visual design, psychology, and business methods. It is increasingly applied as a critical component in scientific research, digital libraries, data mining, financial data analysis, market studies, manufacturing production control, and drug discovery".
Information visualization presumes that "visual representations and interaction techniques take advantage of the human eyes broad bandwidth pathway into the mind to allow users to see, explore, and understand large amounts of information at once. Information visualization focused on the creation of approaches for conveying abstract information in intuitive ways.
Data analysis is an indispensable part of all applied research and problem solving in industry. The most fundamental data analysis approaches are visualization (histograms, scatter plots, surface plots, tree maps, parallel coordinate plots, etc.), statistics (hypothesis test, regression, PCA, etc.), data mining (association mining, etc.), and machine learning methods (clustering, classification, decision trees, etc.). Among these approaches, information visualization, or visual data analysis, is the most reliant on the cognitive skills of human analysts, and allows the discovery of unstructured actionable insights that are limited only by human imagination and creativity. The analyst does not have to learn any sophisticated methods to be able to interpret the visualizations of the data. Information visualization is also a hypothesis generation scheme, which can be, and is typically followed by more analytical or formal analysis, such as statistical hypothesis testing.
The modern study of visualization started with computer graphics, which "has from its beginning been used to study scientific problems. However, in its early days the lack of graphics power often limited its usefulness. The recent emphasis on visualization started in 1987 with the special issue of Computer Graphics on Visualization in Scientific Computing. Since then there have been several conferences and workshops, co-sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society and ACM SIGGRAPH". They have been devoted to the general topics of data visualisation, information visualization and scientific visualisation, and more specific areas such as volume visualization.