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Taking Visualization to the Next Level

Visualization is the visual communication of information - at least the way the term is understood in computer science. But in many ways, visualization is today mostly technical, empirical, and there is practically no theoretical foundation for what we are doing. There are also obvious connections with psychology, design, art, aesthetics, etc. This website tries to pull them all together and start making connections to push visualization to the next level.

Visualization can of course have many meanings, and part of the idea behind this website is also to explore those. There are many misunderstandings today because of the different uses of the term visualization by computer scientists, artists, designers, architects, etc. There is further confusion within those fields, not just between them. Thinking about the many ways of visualizing data or information will be a good start to find out what really makes visualization, and what makes it so interesting.

But apart from that, there is a blatant lack of reflection in the field. We do things, we publish them, we even test them in user studies, but there is still very little thinking about visualization. We need to start thinking and talking about visualization, not just look at pictures. This will force us to develop a language for talking about visualization and interaction, in a way that does not exist today.

All this (and more) will eventually lead to a new approach for developing a foundational theory of visualization, an actual science of visualization. And this one will not just take pieces from psychology, statistics, and computer graphics (though that will certainly be necessary, too), but be a science in its own right.

We need to stop playing with visual toys and start asking tough questions. We need to actually understand what we are doing. We need to push this field to the next level.

Posted by Robert Kosara on October 1, 2006.