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What is Visualization?


This article presents an analysis of the key principles behind visualization practice during its first 300 years, and the new 21st century developments in "media visualization."

What is information visualization? Despite the growing popularity of infovis (a common abbreviation for “information visualization”), it is not so easy to come up with a definition which would work for all kinds of infovis projects being created today, and at the same would clearly separate it from other related fields such as scientific visualization and information design. So lets start with a provisional definition that we can modify later. Lets define information visualization as a mapping between discrete data and a visual representation. We can also use different concepts besides “representation,” each bringing an additional meaning. For example, if we believe that a brain uses a number of distinct representational and cognitive modalities, we can define infovis as a mapping from other cognitive modalities (such as mathematical and propositional) to an image modality.

My definition does not cover all aspects of information visualization – such as the distinctions between static, dynamic (i.e. animated) and interactive visualization – the latter, of course, being most important today. In fact, most definitions of infovis by computer science researchers equate it with the use of interactive computer-driven visual representations and interfaces.

Article  2010