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Welcome to the Future of Information

September 5, 2009

Imagine living your life inside of your calculus textbook: numbers and words arranged neatly in columns on page after page. Black serif based type, size 12 or smaller on thin white pages. Morning after morning, night after night, all information in your life is presented to you in this harsh, black and white world. Or imagine this: living inside a permanent Power Point presentation, filled with gradients, dark backgrounds and bright text and clipart, clipart everywhere…

How much of the content do you think you would absorb? Do you think you would be able to understand and retain the concepts? Would you feel inspired to learn about the world around you? Would you feel compelled to explore the data further?

Welcome to a world where the potential of information visualization has not yet been realized.

This is, of course, an extreme example. The world in which we live in today is not merely text based and far from black and white. We are just beginning to delve into all of the possibilities that information visualization has to offer. Because there is so much information available these days, it is, quite simply, too overwhelming to try and absorb it all in text-based manner, especially when it comes to the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Information visualization attempts to solve the problem of too much data by presenting information in a graphic way instead of as a sequence of letters and numbers. In this way, we are able to absorb more information because the combination of text and images helps us to comprehend more readily. The ultimate goal of the field is to reveal the intricacy of the world in uncomplicated terms that are simple to comprehend.

venndiagram I’ve included the venn diagram on the right for the specific reason that is a great, basic example of information visualization. Word clouds are another example of how text can be visualized. A combination of images and text, no matter the complexity, help others to absorb information both quickly and accurately. InfoVis, as it is sometimes referred to, can be as simple as this diagram or as complex as a multilayer illustration encompassing maps, numbers, text, and other images.

The focus of my research for the upcoming semester will be on the future of information visualization and what its place will be in Web 3.0 and beyond.  In the future it is possible that information visualization will become the method of data return from things like wearable computers. There is also the possibility in the extreme future that all communication will be graphic based, as culture merge and languages continue to disappear.

In researching the field of Information Visualization, I plan to delve into the history of graphical representation, including cartography, interview professionals in the field in order to uncover where the future may lie, and also investigate the methods that are currently used within the field, all in order to gain a perspective on how important of a role information visualization will play in the future.

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