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VWN Product Reviews: Exploring geovisualization

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Exploring geovisualization, is a tome dedicated to the visualisation of data. Specifically, visualising data of a physical or non-physical nature, in the format of geographic landscaping ? in other words, highly visual, highly graphical formats.

At one point in the introduction, the layout of the book itself as discussed as a geovisual exercise.

It seems plausible to draw upon the metaphor of the landscape to map the presence or absence of information relating to themes within the information space. This can be achieved by representing the various thematic foci of the book as an undulating semantic surface with continually varying magnitudes. Where a number of chapters are relatively closely related the information landscape metaphorically piles up into mountains of information about a particular theme. The valleys between information peaks occur in areas of the information landscape associated with topics about which the book focuses less explicitly. The topographic shading scheme used in the map on the left draws further upon the metaphor to represent the "thematic density" of the book across our information landscape.


That language sample, also indicates that this is at heart, an academic tome, with an audience of students and professors more than industry professionals. That would indeed be the case, however it does manage to avoid steering into high academia: the practices this book suggests remain practically useful.

The book tries to take a holistic approach, not respecting any disciplinary borders and trying to cover the topic as a whole,. Which is a definite plus. Many of the mapping methods the book dsiscusses are abstract mappers, ideal for charting virtual environments, whose properties do not have to obey the laws of physics.

In layout, the book is clean and well organised. You could say a bit too well organised, as the appendixes, list of contributors, people we would like to thank, et al, come before the book itself begins. You are already through about 10% of the book before you reach page 3 ? where the content starts. This approach is novel, to say the least.

If you accept that the authors of this book are happy with the process of using ten words whenever one would suffice, this is quite a treasure trove of visualisation and VR research, with background on the origins of each method of visualisation. VR itself, is even mentioned in a verbose way, as being much of the underpinning of the book:

The way that we construct knowledge from geospatial data can draw upon interactive visual representations that use some of these novel techniques. However, we are likely to be most successful in analyzing large complex spatial data sets if geovisualization is able to draw heavily and directly upon advances in Computer Science and computer graphics.
The design, development and testing of software and hardware solutions that support the kinds of graphical interactivity that are specifically required by geovisualization is a key requirement. One aspect of this challenge involves integrating and adapting advances in computer graphics and Information Visualization associated with visual data mining for application to geographic data analysis. Such integration of tools and techniques would make it practical for us to participate in visually enabled knowledge construction across the process of GIScience.

 

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