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Executive Summary

Overview Report

Main Report

Bibliographic History

Review of Visualization in the Social Sciences

Executive Summary:

This illustrated report on scientific visualization in the social sciences was prepared during the spring of 1998. It contains a large review of the literature and internet sources on visualization, prefaced by an overview report on the general issues this survey raises, and concludes with a summary of the key contemporary areas of activity in visualization in the social sciences. The report is made up three parts:

  1. The overview report discusses the extent to which different forms of visualization are prevalent in different social sciences and how this appears to be changing over time. The overview examines the extent to which new visual paradigms are emerging in the social sciences. It concludes with an attempt to identify patterns of key initiatives, research projects and people currently involved in visualization in social science. However, those activities not well referenced through the internet or in suitably key-worded papers cannot be ensured of inclusion.
  2. The detailed contemporary review includes examples from political science, psychology, statistical graphics, econometric modelling, multimedia in the social sciences, computer mapping, GIS and animation. It is illustrated with illustrations drawn from material on the World Wide Web - and fully referenced.
  3. A large bibliography of examples of work published on visualization in the social sciences is also included. This was built from an existing bibliography of 1,500 visualization references to work published in the mid 1990s using various publications databases and material from postgraduate theses on visualization that have been recently submitted. It currently contains 2531 references and we estimate that the web sites referenced since 1991 add a further 1028 "paper equivalent" references.

The Staff involved:

Dr Daniel Dorling was responsible for ensuring the report was delivered on time and for most of the work on the overview report and its conclusions. His 1991 PhD bibliography on visualization in the social sciences formed the basis for the updated bibliography. Daniel is a lecturer at the School of Geographical Sciences at Bristol and teaches undergraduate courses on visualization and human cartography. He has been a member of the ICA international committee on cartography and visualization and was previously a fellow of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and then the British Academy. His relevant publications include:

Dorling D. (1992) Visualizing people in space and time, Environment and Planning B, Vol.19, pp.613-637.

Dorling D. (1992) Stretching space and splicing time: from cartographic animation to interactive visualization,

Cartography and Geographical Information Systems, Vol.19, No.4, pp.215-227, 267-270.

Dorling D. and Openshaw S. (1992) Using computer animation to visualize spacetime patterns, Environment

and Planning B, Vol.19, pp.639-650.

Dorling D. (1993) Map design for census mapping, The Cartographic Journal, Vol.30, No.2, pp.167-183.

Dorling D. (1994) Cartograms for visualizing human geography, in D. Unwin and H. Hearnshaw (eds),

Visualization and GIS, London: Belhaven Press. pp.85-102.

Dorling, D. (1994) Bringing elections back to life, Geographical Magazine, Vol.66, No.12, pp.20-21.

Dorling D. (1995) The visualization of local urban change across Britain, Environment and Planning B, 22.,


Dorling D. (1995) A New Social Atlas of Britain, London: John Wiley and Sons.

Dorling D. (1995) Visualizing the 1991 census, in S. Openshaw (ed), A Census User's Handbook, London:

Longmans, pp.167-213.

Dorling D. (1995) Visualizing changing social structure from a census, Environment and Planning A, vol.27,

no.2., pp.353-378.

Dorling D., Johnston R.J. and Pattie C.J. (1996), Representing, exploring and analysing electoral change using

triangular graphs, Environment and Planning A, Vol.28, pp.979-998.

Dorling, D. and Fairbairn D. (1997) Mapping Ways of Representing the World, Longman (first book in the

Explorations in Human Geography series)

Dorling D. (1996) Area cartograms: their use and creation, Concepts and Techniques in Modern Geography

series no. 59, University of East Anglia: Environmental Publications.   

Dorling, D., (1997), European micro-data availability: the special case of Britain, Chapter 6 in Geographic

Information Research: Bridging the Atlantic, M.Craglia and H.Coucelis (eds), London: Taylor and Francis.,


Dorling, D. (1997) Mapping the UK: maps and spatial data for the 21st century, Mapping Awarness, 11, 9, 36.

Dorling, D. (1998) Mapping disease patterns, Chapter of the Encyclopedia of Biostatistics, Chichester: Wiley,

Dorling, D. and Simpson, S. (1998) Statistics in Society, Edited Collection of over forty chapters, forthcoming,

London: Arnold.

Dorling, D., (1998) Human Geography - when it is good to map, Environment and Planning A, 30, 277-288.

Dr Scott Orford is the departmental computer officer, and his duties involve the installation and maintenance of software on the department's computers. He has knowledge and experience of many visualization software packages used within both the social and physical sciences, and has assisted in various departmental research projects. He has recently completed his Ph.D. (passed December 1997) in which he used state of the art Geographic Information Systems software to store, analyse and visualize his results. Scott also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate computing courses within the Geography Department at Bristol.

Richard Harris is a PhD student exploring the synthesis of Lifestyle datasets with the 1991 Census, and the subsequent visualisation of this data to identify niche (within-ED) areas of deprivation. His PhD is entitled 'Geodemographics: Information for local policy?', his advisor being Professor Paul Longley. Richard gained his first degree at Bristol geography department and his Masters in Society and Space in geography and at Bristol's School of Policy Studies. As well as being familiar with ARC/INFO, ARC View and ARC macro Language, Richard has demonstrated IDRISI GIS practicals for a couple of years.

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