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Executive Summary

Overview Report

Main Report


  Computer Graphics
  The Web


Bibliographic History

Review of Visualization in the Social Sciences: Main Report

Computer Graphics

According to an estimate by Jones & Careras (1996), an incredible 2.2 trillion graphs were published during 1994. This can be linked to the growing availability of inexpensive, general-purpose computer packages that can generate output with very little effort (Permaloff & Garfton, 1996). Increasingly, these visual techniques are including sophisticated computer graphics in an attempt to either visualise complexity in the data, or enhance more traditional graphical displays. However, although sophisticated displays, such as 3D graphs, may visually be more pleasing, in terms of extracting information simple 2D graphs have been shown to perform better with respect to accuracy and ease (Fisher et al., 1997). Therefore, it may be argued that developments in visualization are not necessarily advantageous.

The most exciting innovation in computer graphics in recent years has been computer animation, from which VR developed. Computer animation in social science research is not a recent phenomenon. At the beginning of the 1970s, Tobler (1970) describes a `computer movie' he and his research student developed to show a simulation of urban growth in the Detroit region. However, new technology has allowed computer animation to have the potential to become almost commonplace in research if desired. In particular, computer animation has a role in visualising temporal changes, such as with respect to space-time data (e.g. Dorling & Openshaw, 1992), and this may have important implications for research in the social sciences. Computer animation can also be used as an approach to exploratory data analysis, which may assist the researcher in understanding the effect of uncertainty, particularly in spatial applications (Ehlschaeger et al., 1997)

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