“InfoVis and SciVis face off” is how the American Scientist homepage teases for my latest Sightings column. While the comparison between information visualization (InfoVis) and scientific visualization (SciVis) is part of the discussion, I am also describing work by my colleague Anthony Fodor (who works in bioinformatics) to demonstrate the usefulness of InfoVis in science.
The inspiration for this article came from seeing my colleague’s work in studying the microorganisms that live in an environment like a sewage treatment plant. He used a very simple yet highly effective visualization to examine the gathered data and to find interesting structures. As it turns out, we know next to nothing about the microorganisms in our sewage plants (or, for that matter, the oceans or our own bodies). Anthony’s paper is available online.
But I also tried to make a broader point about scientific and information visualization, specifically Tamara Munzner’s observation that InfoVis isn’t unscientific, and SciVis isn’t uninformative. For that, I needed to go into some depth on the difference between the two fields, and it may have ended up being a bit much for a single two-page article. But I am going to expand on this in two articles on this website in the next week or two. Specifically, the image on the first page provides a lot of food for thought and discussion that could prove to be very valuable for understanding the differences between InfoVis and SciVis.
This is my last regular Sightings. I may contribute again in the future, but not on a regular schedule.