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List of Influences: Alan MacEachren

The first time I saw Alan MacEachren speak was as the keynote speaker at the Diagrams 2000 conference in Edinburgh. Because of his background in geography, he was introduced as "a practitioner" of diagrams – a designation which he immediately resisted. His work is clearly much more than that, connecting cartography, information visualization/design, semiotics, and perception. Alan's book How Maps Work has considerably changed the way representation and communication are understood when it comes to maps.

Alan MacEachren is the director of the GeoVISTA Center at Penn State, and I am too scared to start counting all his awards, funded projects, and publications. I do want to mention the special timing of his list, which I received shortly before the deadline for InfoVis, Vis, and VAST: perhaps the busiest time of the year for people in this field.

Here is Alan's list of books in the order in which he read them.

  • Arthur H. Robinson, The Look of Maps. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1952. This small book, that I read during my Masters degree, introduced the field of cartography to formal user testing and the role of experimental psychology as a source for ideas and methods that can help us understand the success (or lack of success) of map symbolization and design choices.
  • Roger M. Downs and David Stea, Maps in Minds. New York: Harper & Row, 1977. I read this text, intended for undergraduates, when it came out during my Ph.D. It prompted a range of ideas about the ways humans acquire, conceptualize, and use information about geographic scale space. The chapter on spatial problem solving seems to preview some of our current interests in analytical reasoning.
  • Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969. I was alerted to and stimulated by Arnheim’s work during grad school, with a reading of Art and Visual Perception, but then found Visual Thinking even more stimulating, as was New Essays on the Psychology of Art.
  • Jacques Bertin, Semiology of Graphics: Diagrams, Networks, Maps (W. Berg, Trans. (translation from French 1967 edition) ed.). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983. (and also: Jacques Bertin, Graphics and Graphic Information Processing (W. Berg, Trans.). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1981. Bertin’s work is well known – I’ve often wondered how U.S. cartography and Information Visualization might have been different had more people read the original in French rather than waiting until the 1980s.
  • Janos Szegö, Human Cartography: Mapping the World of Man. Stockholm: Swedish Council for Building Research, 1987. This hard to acquire volume had a substantial impact on my thinking related to spatio-temporal representation and analysis.
  • C. S. Peirce, Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs. In R. E. Innis (Ed.), reprinted in Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology (pp. 1-23). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1985. Semiotics is, I think, an under-utilized research approach and perspective through which to understand and through which to formalize all forms of representation, including visual. This is a good place to start.
  • Howard Margolis, Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition: A Theory of Judgment. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. This book had a major influence on my thinking about the goals that geovisualization, and visualization generally, should address and about the interactions among cognition, the context of work, and visual display.
  • George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. This book, and other work by Lakoff, provides a stimulating perspective on the concept of mental categories and their role in all forms of thinking.
  • Stephen M. Kosslyn, Image and Mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. One of several important contributions by Kosslyn relevant to understanding the interaction between human cognition and visual representations.
  • Edwin Hutchins, Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1995. This book provides a fascinating account of how cognition happens in groups and is externalized to artifacts. The real world observation of teams doing shipboard navigation is, to me, particularly compelling.

Posted by Robert Kosara on April 2, 2007. Filed under influences.