ON VISUALIZATION AND COMPUTER GRAPHICS, VOL. 12, NO. 4, JULY/AUGUST 2006
"Views on Visualization"
The field of visualization is maturing. Many problems have been solved
and new directions are sought. In order to make
good choices, an understanding of the purpose and meaning of visualization
is needed. In this paper, visualization is considered from multiple points
of view. First, a technological viewpoint is adopted, where the value
of visualization is measured based on effectiveness and efficiency. An
economic model of visualization is presented and benefits and costs are
established. Next, consequences and limitations of visualization are discussed
(including the use of alternative methods, high initial costs, subjectiveness,
and the role of interaction). Example uses of the model for the judgment
of existing classes of methods are given to understand why they are or
are not used in practice. However, such an economic view is too restrictive.
Alternative views on visualization are presented and discussed: visualization
as an art, visualization as design and, finally, visualization as a scientific
Visualization, 3D, devaluation, validation, methodology, survey, challenges,
Apart from considering visualization as a technology, innovation, an art
for its own sake, or as design, we could consider visualization research
as a scientific discipline. If there is something like a science of visualization,
with what should it be concerned? Loosely defined, a scientific discipline
should aim at a coherent set of theories, laws, and models that describe
a range of phenomena, have predictive power, are grounded in observations,
and that can be falsified.
In the preceding sections, I have considered visualization from multiple
perspectives. None of these is superior. One view is to consider visualization
purely from a technological point of view, aiming for effectiveness and
efficiency. This requires that costs and benefits be assessed. The simple
model proposed enables us to get insight into various aspects of visualization
and also to understand why certain classes of methods are successful and
others are not. Another view is to consider visualization as an art, i.e.,
something that is interesting enough for its own sake. The use of insights
from design can help us to improve visualizations. Finally, a view on
visualization as an empiric science was discussed. Obviously, these different
views, chematically depicted in Figures, are strongly related and results
from one view can stimulate work according to the other views. Finally,
each view that is adopted does imply playing a different game, and, if
we want to win, we should play those games according to their own rules:
aim for provable effectiveness and efficiency, aim for elegance and beauty,
and aim at generic laws with predictive power.
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J. van Wijk received the MSc degree in industrial design engineering in
1982 and the PhD degree in computer science in 1986, both with honors.
He worked at a software company and at The Netherlands Energy Research
Foundation ECN before he joined the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
in 1998, where he became a full professor of visualization in 2001. He
is a member of the IEEE, ACM SIGGRAPH, and Eurographics. He was paper
cochair for IEEE Visualization in 2003 and 2004 and is paper cochair for
IEEE InfoVis in 2006. His main research interests are information visualization
and flow visualization, both with a focus on the development of new visual