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Graphics and Visualization in the Social Sciences

An AGOCG workshop to discuss the above topic was held 8 - 9 May 1997 at Burleigh Court, Loughborough University. It was attended by 24 people from 16 institutions.

The aims of the meeting were:

Although there was a bias towards geography and planning, nevertheless there were present at the meeting sociologists, statisticians and participants involved in supporting use of techniques and tools. Many of the themes discussed and the recommendations have wide application and will be promoted through AGOCG to funding bodies, mainly JISC and ESRC.

Issues Discussed

The discussions at the workshop took place in both plenary sessions and parallel groups with all participants making presentations and participating in group discussions. Some of the issues which emerged included:

Case studies of the use of graphics and visualization in the social sciences were presented at the workshop and will be detailed in the full report.


It is a tradition that AGOCG workshops emerge with some firm recommendations for action, and this event was no exception. This helps to steer the work of AGOCG and through them to make recommendations to other funding bodies who may be able to allocate resources to realise the proposals made. The major recommendations from the workshop are as follows:


It is important to raise the status of graphics and visualization in the social sciences and to ensure researchers and teachers are aware of the potential of technologies for data representation and understanding, data collection, and decision support systems.

The special nature of social science data needs to be recognised.


A review of current work in the use of graphics and visualization in the social sciences throughout the world should be undertaken.

A review of tools within the current statistical and visualization packages should be conducted which is based on social science data requirements.

Training and Awareness

A training course on the use of visualization techniques within the social sciences should be run and widely promoted.

Ensure there is high awareness of resources and services available now (SOSIG, Data Archive, QUALIDATA, Arts and Humanities Data Services, Knowledge Gallery etc) and encourage funding bodies to take account of the needs of social scientists in their service development.


A workshop should be held which examines the "Role of the Visual" in various strands of social science which would be discussed in parallel sessions covering topics such as: understanding the past; social processes; economic processes; decision making.

A series of case studies reflecting the potential and use of visual techniques should be put together to reflect good practice. These should be available online and on paper.


A full report of this workshop will be available as an AGOCG Technical report. Please e-mail me if you would like a copy.

Anne Mumford