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Case Studies Index

Review of graphical environments on the WWW as a means of widening public participation in social science research

Editorial Introduction

A major boost to the acceptance of visual thinking and virtual worlds has been provided by the development of the World Wide Web. Initially accessed through test "browsers" with no graphic capabilities this has rapidly matured into an environment characterised by graphics, colour, animation and so on. In effect, what only a few years ago were research topics in scientific visualization have become commonplace and "web design" to make best use of them has become a major industry. Cartographers may have reservations about the absence of what are seen as "good cartographic design" on the WWW, but who are they to impose standards?

What is becoming apparent is that the ability of the WWW to enable social scientists to share graphics affords numerous exciting opportunities for research. It can, for example, greatly assist questionnaire delivery by allowing surveyors to include pictures as stimulii. It can allow research-oriented software to be made widely available. Finally, it allows communities to share in the development of their environment through computer supported decision support. This Case Study by Steve Carver, Richard Kingston and Ian Turton illustrates all of these applications. However such use of WWW graphics to facilitate research is not without its statistical and ethical problems, and these are both explored.

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