What is Information Visualization?

Information visualization blends highly advanced computational methods with sophisticated graphics engines to tap the extraordinary ability of humans to see patterns and structure in even the most complex visual presentations. Currently applied to massive, heterogeneous, and dynamic datasets, such as those generated in studies of astrophysical, fluidic, biological, and other complex processes, the techniques have become sophisticated enough to allow the interactive manipulation of variables in real time. Ultra high-resolution displays allow teams of researchers to zoom into interesting aspects of the renderings, or to navigate along interesting visual pathways, following their intuitions and even hunches to see where they may lead. New research is now beginning to apply these sorts of tools to the social sciences as well, and the techniques offer considerable promise in helping us understand complex social processes like learning, political and organizational change, and the diffusion of knowledge.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • Big data, numerous and different sources of information collected on servers, all together organized and displayed in one single slide, in one group of graphics answering in real time to specific question(s) regarding one or more museum functions or issues. This type of visual/infographic outcome is part of a Business Intelligence process that could really provide, economically (on the mid term) and interactively, Museum directors with global or specific answers in their day-to-day and longer term management tasks and interactive dialogue with staff and Board. This is one great way of making informatics and infographics work in a museum environment. But there is also the possibility of a new exploratory interface for mediation with the mobile and internet publics, such as this one at IMA – Indianapolis Museum of Art http://dashboard.imamuseum.org/. This transparent information approach is a great value-added feature of the museum.- guy.deschenes guy.deschenes Oct 13, 2012
  • Each museum has so much information in its collections, there's a wealth of material that can benefit from information visualization. Open data is making this a huge area of potential for museums. The video in the clippings about 'Alternate Visualization' is a great explanation of this. - sheila.carey sheila.carey Oct 13, 2012
  • There is also this great video presentation by Mitchell Whitelaw at TEDx Canberrra 2010 - Visualising Cultural Collections http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8JO0KkYvow - guy.deschenes guy.deschenes Oct 13, 2012
  • Oh, one more thing. You may not be ready for full implementation of sophisticated data visualization technologies in your museum organisation, but yet you would find interesting and useful to convert quickly some of your data into well designed charts with no learning curve issue. What about working from a typeface that would convert numbers into beautiful charts in no time. Designer Travis Kochel with his new typeface FF Chartwell is doing just that !! Brilliant. Have a look :https://www.fontfont.com/fonts/chartwell - guy.deschenes guy.deschenes Oct 13, 2012
  • - ssbautista ssbautista Not only are museums increasing their collections data with digitized images, metadata, tagging, etc., but they are collaborating with other museums and organizations to create aggregate content sites such as ArtStor, Flickr Commons, ArtBabble, Google Art Project, and many national sites outside of the U.S. This is truly big data, which can only become more attractive to the public as we create new ways in which to present it, categorize it, and search it.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - ssbautista ssbautista Oct 14, 2012 How simple museum visitors can benefit from information visualization (e.g., IMA's Dashboard). Description too focused on researchers and scientists; too much use of the words "sophisticated" and "complex". Perhaps a mention of the aesthetics of information visualization (Lev Manovich).

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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