Information visualization and sonification
Displaying complexes of problems, strategies, values
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of International Associations has been faced with a
major challenge of how to provide greater insight into
complex networks of relationships amongst international
organizations, world problems, strategies in response to
them, human development and human values. Extensive databases
are maintained on each of these sets of entities. There
are (hyper)links between the entities in each set, and
between entities in different sets.
In the on-line form of these databases,
users have access to several different kinds of on-going
experiment. These are as follows:
- Network mapping facility:
In this case relationships are presented as lines between
nodes. The nodes provide hyperlink access to text profiles
or further maps. All the displays are generated directly
in response to user request, by clicking on the map logo
, and are self-organizing. The highly dynamic map displays
can be radically manipulated and reconfigured by the user.
The display technique is based on a Java applet developed
by Gerald de Jong (Beautiful
Code BV). [see gallery].
- NetMap: Based on
the assertion that humans respond to graphical patterns
up to one thousand times faster than numeric or character
sets, NetMap takes data from one or more sources, identifies
any associations between data elements, and turns the entire
data set into a colour coded graphical ‘map’ of data interrelationships.
This allows the user to analyse visual representations
of the data relationships starting with a holistic, yet
drillable view. More information about this extraordinary
visualization tool is available from NetMap.
- Tensegrity: This
experiment is an effort to make use of a somewhat unique
tensegrity structure displayed through virtual reality
(viewable through freely available browser plug-ins). Individual
entities (eg problems or strategies) are associated with
the struts in such a structure. The aim being to produce
a coherent configuration that a user can rotate and explore
using the virtual reality plug-in navigational tools. So
the structure can be turned, zoomed into, etc. In principle
clicking on an active strut with which a problem (say)
is associated will bring up the corresponding text profile.
A commentary on the value of this technique is given elsewhere
strategic dilemmas in inter-sectoral dialogue)
- Polyhedra-1: Through
this experiment, software selects a polyhedron onto which
relationships from a problem (say) are projected. Each
facet thus becomes the interface to another problem. The
polyhedron as a whole is thus a configuration of facets
representing the problem as it interfaces with related
problems. Clicking on the facets should bring up the corresponding
text profile. This experiment is based on a similar justification
to that based on tensegrity. In the current version, the
selection of polyhedron is crude and the colouring is random.
The virtual reality browser enables the user to manipulate
and explore the structure.
- Polyhedra-2: This
is a development of the previous experiment in which the
user can endeavour to control the way in which the software
selects and designs the polyhedron. The user is free to
include or exclude particular types of relationship and
to colour the corresponding facets differently, as well
as selecting a preferred shape. Again clicking on a facet
should bring up the text profile. The virtual reality browser
enables the user to manipulate and explore the structure.
A selection of earlier experiments using virtual reality
to display complexes of problems and organizations is presented
elsewhere [see gallery].
These structures were generated in 1997 as static pages (in
contrast to the dynamic generation of structures above).
It is planned to continue experiment with some of the visual
metaphors used there.
Users may experience some difficulty and frustration in getting
virtual reality browser plug-ins to work correctly. An additional
irritation in relation to the virtual reality experiments
above is that they were done using the earlier (simpler) version
of the VRML language (version 1), whereas current browsers
work with the later version (version 2) and are not necessarily
faithful in their reproduction of version 1 colour values.
This adds to the colour unfriendly nature of the differences
between browsers. It is hoped to develop the experiments with
the additional facilities of VRML 2.
It must be stressed that these visual experiments
are designed to find ways of representing, comprehending and
exploring complexity. The purpose is to provide sophisticated
techniques which generate structures that are visually interesting
in their own right but raise interesting questions about what
they are able to represent and how they might be developed.
It is a deliberately intention to give the user as much control
as possible in exploring these structures creatively. The
intention is also to make this process as interesting to academic
researchers, students, the media, and to those concerned with
formulating more appropriate policies in a complex society.
For further discussion see :
Links to relevant external resources: