Information Visualization

Information visualization is the process of showing the data in a graphical display which we cannot explain using words and text. In other words information visualization is a set of technologies that use visual computing to amplify human cognition with abstract information. The greatest advantage of information visualization is its ability to show the amounts of information that are beyond the capacity of textual display. Information visualization can significantly improve productivity. Users can explore large amounts of data, rapidly assimilate information from many sources, reason with it, understand it and create new knowledge based on it. With the right visual picture, people can make better decisions, faster, backed with more information.

One of the most obvious benefits of information visualization is helping people see trends and anomalies in data, which can be particularly valuable in real-time environments. Visual techniques such as heat maps and tree maps, which help reveal patterns in homogeneous data, were virtually unknown so many years ago, but are used today in many places ranging from public Web sites to advanced trading applications.

Real-time environments require rapid comprehension of a dynamically changing situation – whether in the stock market, an emergency response center or an operations control center. Information visualization can also help reveal patterns in complex, heterogeneous, rapidly updating data.

Usage of Information Visualization

Information visualization is extremely powerful for analysis. Information visualization makes use of what is called external cognition (External Cognition is the process of using the external objects to gain information) External resources are used for thinking. People are relieved from having to imagine everything. Instead they can just look at an image. This is only possible because human vision has a very large bandwidth, the largest of all senses.

Information visualization is applied in numerous areas covering every industry and all tasks where understanding of the core structure in data is crucial. Some prominent examples are:

  • Economical/financial analysis
  • Representation of large hierarchies
  • Medical training/assistance
  • Engineering/Physics

Advantages of Information Visualization

Some of the other advantages of information visualization are:

  1. Increasing the memory and processing resources available to the user.
  2. Reducing the search for information.
  3. Using visual representations to enhance the detection of patterns.
  4. Enabling perceptual inference operations.
  5. Using perceptual attention mechanisms for monitoring.
  6. Encoding information in a manipulable medium.

Disadvantages of Information Visualization

  • The potentially misleading perception of reliability of a visualization (visualizations may appear more convincing and sound than they really are).
  • User will get carried away by the graphics used for representing the data. Making the user stay focused on what they exactly want to do is difficult if the graphical representation is an eye catching design.
  • The (multiple) implicit meanings inherent in visualizations (leading to ambiguous interpretations).
  • For the user to make sense out of the graphical representation or to be understood, the data used should be familiar to the audience and interesting. If the user doesn’t know what is exactly represented in the graphics users might misunderstand the data.
  • The high prerequisites for diagram interpretation (a visualization’s efficacy depends on the user’s previous experience and visual literacy).

To be understood, the data used should be familiar to the audience and interesting and also user must have some experience using the Information visualization. A normal person who is just being exposed to the information visualization will not understand the data if it is a complex image. This potential disadvantage belongs to the category of cognitive problems caused by the designer of a graphic representation. It occurs when visualization distracts a person from the main goal he or she tries to achieve or when several items in a graphic are emphasized at the same time, thus confusing the viewer about where to start or to focus. Sources of distraction can be: Unnecessary ornaments, visual background noise, flashy animated graphics, or including unrelated elements in a diagram.

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