SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Information Visualization
Re: [Sigia-l] Information Visualization
From: Karl Fast (karl.fast_at_pobox.com)
Date: Mon Nov 10 2003 - 08:56:20 EST
> For those of us who were 'online' before Mosaic, it was very easy to
> both understand and to demonstrate the enormous potential of the
> web. Anyone with more than 17 brain cells...could immediately see
> the potential.
I disagree with you on that. After all, TBL's initial paper for the
'89 hypertext conference was rejected. Those people who supposedly
knew hypertext, many of whom were online, thought his idea too
simple and failing to offer anything new.
I'm not dismissing your argument that visualization is suspect
because after a decade of work it hasn't become mainstream. I have
asked exactly the same question. There are days when I reach the
conclusion that you do.
But I don't understand how you can call my argument "irrational."
You wrote that my response was "irrational because you seem to be
saying some stuff takes much longer than others to percolate and
information visualization is one of them."
Umm, don't they? Do all things percolate at the same rate? Aren't
some things harder than other things?
Research is not a process of steady, linear progress. And
information visualization remains a subject of research more than
market application (though companies are making products based on
this research, good examples being Inxight and Spotfire).
To answer your question, yes: in my opinion, information
visualization will take longer to percolate than hypertext. I could
be wrong about that. If I am, then all current effort in the field
is probably wasted since we've been at this since the early 90's (or
late 80's, depending how you count).
Surely our 'percolation date' must be past by now.
Then again, maybe there is time left on the clock. Hypertext
percolated for more than 30 years before making it big.
> So do you see any clear path to information visualization success?
> Stuff that need to worked out? Or are you simply holding on to an
> irrational hope that it will/should succeed, because it would be
> neat if it did?
To answer that we should probably figure out what would constitute
- Are we talking success in terms of research findings?
- Perhaps success will be claimed when the subject is a standard
course in computer-science programs?
- Does it mean web-style taking over the world success?
- When a visualization firm achieves $1 billion in sales before
being acquired Microsoft?
- Something else?
My view of the field is that it's making slow, steady progress in
both research findings and market growth. Furthermore, I don't
believe visualization will achieve mass-market acceptance a c'oup
d'etat like the Web. Success will come by the long road.
But I don't have a 'clear path' to success, however you define it.
To me, information visualization is still a research problem. It's
like Einstein said, "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be
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