Textual and Document Visualization

Isabel Meirelles’s “Design for Information” points to the following two seminal books on textual visualization:

Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think by Stuart K. Card.

Using Vision to Think 

Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History by Franco Moretti

Graphs, Maps, Trees 

In addition, these are some of the case studies/examples that she mentions:

Wordle (http://www.wordle.net)
Google Books Ngram Viewer (http://books.google.com/ngrams)

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Aug 14, 2015 ]

Art and Architecture Thesaurus now available as Linked Open Data

It was informally announced during the 2013 LODLAM Summit in Montreal last year, and the official announcement was made today by Jim Cuno, the President and CEO of the Getty –http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/art-architecture-thesaurus-now-available-as-linked-open-data/

Getty Vocabularies, the Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), is now available as Linked Open Data. The dataset is available at vocab.getty.edu under an Open Data Commons Attribution License (ODC BY 1.0).

The SPQRQL endpoint and the documentation is found here: http://vocab.getty.edu

Over the next 18 months, The Research Institute’s other three Getty Vocabularies – The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)®, The Union List of Artist Names®, and The Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA)® will all become available as Linked Open Data.

For general information about our Linked Open Data project see http://www.getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/lod/

The open availability of these valuable data sets is great news for developers working with cultural data.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Feb 23, 2014 ]

Third International Conference on the Image in partnership with the Polish Mediations Biennale 3: The Unknown – Nieznane

14-16 September 2012
Higher School of the Humanities and Journalism, Poznan, Poland http://www.ontheimage.com/conference

SPECIAL THEME: ‘The Thread to the Unknown’
Is the Unknown a construct? Can we actually construct the Unknown, and if so how do we do it? This conference aims to explore the boundaries of language, culture, scientific research, artistic production and images in relation to the Unknown, in order to think about the limits of science and the future of human society. (Full conference Themes may be found athttp://ontheimage.com/ideas/themes/).

The 2012 conference is presented in partnership with the Polish Mediations Biennale 3: The Unknown – Nieznane.

Call-for-Papers for proposal submission guidelines and descriptions of sessions – http://ontheimage.com/conference-2012/call-for-papers/. Presenters may also choose to submit written papers for publication in the fully refereed International Journal of the Image.

Full details of the conference, including an online proposal submission form, may be found on the conference website at http://ontheimage.com/conference. 

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Feb 22, 2012 ]

Design for Information by Isabel Mereilles

Isabel Meirelles’s “Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations” makes a welcome contribution to the information visualization literature.

Design for Information: An Introduction to the Histories, Theories, and Best Practices Behind Effective Information Visualizations

The author is an experienced designer and educator in information and motion graphics, for print and interaction. The book is intended primarily for designers, but it does attempt to bridge the technical requirements with visual design theory and practice – and there is a great need for this type of synthesis.

The book contains a wealth of beautiful and useful visual examples that illustrate accomplishments in information visualization, as well as the important theoretical foundations underlying these. The author introduces relevant research in psychology, such as the Gestalt laws describing how we detect patterns and visually integrate coherent percepts (proximity, simplicity, familiarity, and segregation between figure and ground).

The book is structured around the main established visualization methods: 

    • Relational Structures: Networks
    • Hierarchical Structures: Trees
    • Temporal Structures: Timelines and Flows
    • Spatio-temporal Structures
    • Textual Structures

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jul 21, 2015]

Visual Complexity by Manuel Lima

The recent (2011) Manuel Lima book “Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information” has made it onto a Wired magazine list.

Visual Complexity

The book includes a showcase and analysis of “the variety of contemporary visual depictions of complex networks” http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/book/

The author is responsible for the site: http://www.visualcomplexity.com/vc/
featuring a database of projects that visualize complex networks.

[Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Dec 02, 2011, edited Jul 21, 2015 ]

Visualization Methods

Periodic Table of Visualization Methods shows visualization methods for data, information, concept, strategy, method and compound presented in a familiar periodic table structure. The classification scheme in use here is a multi-faceted one:

simple to complex
data / information / concept / strategy / metaphor / compound
process / structure
detail / overview
divergence / convergence


This project is one of the maps produced by visual-literacy.org, a collaborative effort from various Swiss universities including Università della Svizzera italiana, Universität St. Gallen (UNISG) , L’Université de Genève (UNIGE), Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW).

I was especially intrigued by the XEROX PARC Cone Tree (Cn) which has been used to represent hierarchical file structures including the Wold Wide Web.

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Jul 10, 2007 ]

Complexity, Metcalfe’s Law and Simplicity

Complexity can be defined as the number of components of a system, the number of relations between those components and the level of asymmetry in the structure of relations.

see also: What is complexity? by F. Heylighen

Robert Metcalfe, inventor of the Ethernet, is also the author of Metcalfe’s Law which states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system.

In the July 2006 IEEE Spectrum, Bob Briscoe, Odlyzko and Tilly argue that Metcalfe’s Law is Wrong because it overestimates the value of each connection. Reed’s law, on the contrary, suggests that Metcalfe’s law underestimates the value of adding connections since each member of the network is connected to individuals as well as subsets of the whole.

Metalfe’s law is general enough to be applicable to many systems. It has been used recently, for example, to argue for the “exponential” benefits of RDF and the semantic web


“the value of your information grows exponentially with your ability to combine it with new information.”

source: RDF and Metcalf’s law

In considering simplicity (the opposite of complexity?) in the context of interface design, I thought that this recent article by Luke Wroblewski made a pragmatic distinction between perception and reality


Many of us carry a few preconceived notions about simplicity. We assume things that are easy to use don’t have a lot of options and, as a result, shouldn’t appear cluttered when we first encounter them. In the world of product design, this means plenty of whitespace, clear calls to action, and an overall reduction of content—in the form of visual elements such as type, images, lines, colors, shapes, and so on. When a product has these attributes, we are more likely to assume it is easy to use. It’s quite possible that it might not be, but the perception of simplicity is there.

Conversely, a perception of complexity can turn customers, clients, or business stakeholders off before they ever actually use a product. In a worst-case scenario, an evaluation based on an opinion that “this looks cluttered; therefore, it must be difficult to use” can prevent customers from ever even trying a product out. But as Don Norman recently suggested, an initial impression of complexity might actually be an artifact of a product’s simplicity. In “The Truth About Google’s So-called ‘Simplicity’[…]

source: Complexity of Simplicity in UX matters

[Edited from Photomedia Forum posts by T.Neugebauer Jun – Dec, 2006]

icon design

Jonathan Follett’s recent article in UXMatters, Seeing the World in Symbols: Icons and the Evolving Language of Digital Wayfinding covers the history of icon design with links to important resources such as the AIGA universal graphic system and the icon archive at GUIdebook: Graphic User Interface gallery.


In Steve Caplin’s book Icon Design, Susan Kare, the artist who created the icons for the original Mac desktop and applications said:“In general, I believe that icons should work a bit like traffic signs; they should convey information without distracting the user, without competing with the data in an application. Ideally, they should suggest something about the functionality. If it is not completely evident, then the function should be easy to remember if the user is told only once.”


Today, two decades after their advent, icons unnecessarily clutter the desktops of new computers and the toolbars of applications. Increasingly, rather than performing a user-centered wayfinding function, they instead serve a corporate-centered branding function, with application icons becoming tiny billboards for Microsoft®, Adobe®, and their fellow competitors. We’ve turned our virtual spaces into the visual equivalent of the Vegas strip, but without the fun. If the primary purpose of an icon is to appropriately represent an action and help a person accomplish a task quickly, as this visual clutter increases, icons are increasingly failing at that task.

source: Seeing the World in Symbols: Icons and the Evolving Language of Digital Wayfinding. UXMatters, December 18, 2006


In addition to this, there are the following ISO standards for icons

ISO/IEC 11581:2000 Information technology — User system interfaces and symbols — Icon symbols and functions —

  • Part 1: Icons — General
  • Part 2: Object icons
  • Part 3: Pointer icons
  • Part 4: Control icons
  • Part 5: Tool icons
  • Part 6: Action icons

ISO/IEC 18035:2003 Information technology — Icon symbols and functions for controlling multimedia software applications
ISO/IEC 18036:2003 Information technology — Icon symbols and functions for World Wide Web browser toolbars
ISO/IEC TR 19764:2005 Information technology — Guidelines, methodology and reference criteria for cultural and linguistic adaptability in information technology products
ISO/IEC 24738:2006 Information technology — Icon symbols and functions for multimedia link attributes 

[Edited from Photomedia Forum post by T.Neugebauer from Dec 2006]