Geographic information systems (GIS) demand high quality visualization capabilities. Taking high quality data, spending large quantities of cash for spatial analysis and then rendering the graphic result poorly does not make sense - and is a step backwards. The goal is to link data capture to analysis to visualization across the entire GIS spectrum in such a way it not only tells the story, but literally grasps eyes and minds to become interested. In some cases we succeed well, in other cases only marginally and in others we fail. Whether it is in 2D, 3D or 4D, visualization is more often than not, the access point where most people enter into your narrative. Geographic information systems (GIS) integrate spatial data from a wide variety of technologies capable of capturing 2D, 3D and 4D data, Architects, urban planners, transport, defense, water managers, infrastructure, energy, utility managers, natural resource professionals, scientists and consumers all open the spatial door - through visualization. Graphics matter and visualizations not only display results, they attract, compel and draw people into them - if they interesting.
The U.S. NCGIA says, "Visualizing large amounts of information interactively is one of the most attractive and useful capabilities of GIS. High-powered computers can alter any element of the display "on the fly," changing not only the look of the graphic image but also its interpretation. This ability to create multiple perspectives -- both literally and figuratively -- enhances a viewer's perceptive abilities to understand the phenomenon being studied like never before."
It is wholly possible to take very expensive data, analyze it well and understand what you want to say with it - then lose the impact and message through poor visualization. It is sort of like reading a real good book with bad images, the graphics are not interesting, difficult to interpret and fail to guide and help the reader to follow the narrative.
Cartographers know how to construct and make a map look attractive and to convey results. The International Cartographic Association, for example, comes at visualization through a number of commissions such as:cognitive visualization, art and cartography, neogeography, geovisualization, map design, ubiquitous mapping and so on. Much of this work is oriented toward research.
A common comment from the general public is, "we do not want to know the details for making good visualizations, just give us some tools." To meet that challenge, software manufacturers have been attempting to embed easier user routines into their products and to simplify their use, with the goal of reaching this wider audience. One that is many times larger than the professional users alone.
However, the question that remains for both professional and public users interested in taking high quality data and analyzing it - is to capitalize upon the original data value, and or extend the value of the data from its original capture point. All of us can capture data today - images, text, notes, markups and mesages, but far fewer of us can integrate that data into information useful for others use. Most architects creating high quality visualizations want to place their work into the real world context, most utility managers want to ensure their data is interpreted and connected with other city data and most transit people or those interested in using transit systems know that rails and roads connect to other local data and visualization products. How do you place your work into the real world? And how do you go about ensuring it is useful and meaningful for others to use? Visualization helps. And many companies are trying to crack this nut and to succeed.
Pitney Bowes Software released a product that takes aim at this through visualization, "Portrait Miner is a powerful predictive analytics solution that enables customer insight professionals and business users alike to achieve a clear picture of their customers for the purpose of greater customer understanding, uncovering areas of opportunity, achieving optimal segmentation and predicting future behaviour.The solution utilises powerful 3D data visualisation and rapid modeling automation to uncover important data relationships and deliver propensity scores at the push of a button, boosting predictive model accuracy and increasing the speed of analytic results."
Sean Carmichael of User Interface Engineering points out the value of visualization this way, “…The key [to qualitative data] is really understanding what the relationships you want to reveal are. Because it’s usually about the relationships in the data. It’s usually about the hierarchy, the sequence, the influence, or the affinity, or some other way that the data relates to each other. And when you think about how those can relate, then you can put some ordering onto the page in a way that makes sense."
Lorenzo Baracchi in Visual storytelling of Software Systems has addressed the issue of storytelling and visualization with a view toward software development itself. He wanted to use visualization for developing a story for software products - to learn about their pathways and development.. He writes, "By combining the visualizations offered by Peaksight and Mr.Bubbly is possible to create signiﬁcant stories of the evolution of software system, seen by different perspectives. Those stories can be used to understand how software systems have evolved and where could be possible problems in the development." For all those who wonder wonder - "this version of the software seems like the last one" will be interested in this article.
Hardware today is rapidly developing and is connected to the stories of many people, places and phenomenon. It is no mystery that Apple, for example has connected the iPod, iPad, iPhone pipeline to visualize across notebook and desktop computing products, and to the iCloud. Has Nokia not done as well because it missed the hardware ecosystem side of visualization? Is it true that Microsoft has missed opportunities to connect phones, tablets and operating systems into a wider visualization context?
GIS together with high quality CAD, remote sensing, surveying and spatial design data are in a unique position to create high quality visualizations. Spatial analysis without telling the story properly is only processing practice - let visualization breath and make your work fly and soar.
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