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The Handling of Maps in a Visual Archive for the Social Sciences
Ifan D H Shepherd

Visual information of many kinds (drawings, sketches, cartoons, photographs, maps, film and video) is increasingly being used as a significant information source by social scientists. This is happening at a time when an increasing amount of visual information is becoming available in digital form on CD-ROMs and the Internet, and many academic networks are increasing their bandwidth specifically to handle graphical information in digital form. In this context, there would appear to be a major need for a visual information archive in the social sciences. This paper considers the role of map information in such an archive, and considers two propositions: that in any visual information archive, the distinctive characteristics of maps will require special consideration; and that in attempting to meet the needs of social scientists, it may not be appropriate to distribute (map) images alone.



Visualisation of Fuzzy Boundaries of Geographic Objects Bin Jiang and Mike Batty

The linguistic notions such as very low, low, not low, low or medium are commonly used to name classes in currently geographic information system (GIS). This sort of linguistic notions are frequently utilised in the human sciences as well. There is little doubt that the human sciences require formal and even mathematical framework for handling graded categories with blurred boundaries. In the past decades, much effort has been made to model the kind of fuzziness (or possibility) from the field of mathematics. Geographers and GIS professionals have started to treat this issue in the last ten years. The presentation provided detailed discussions with a case study on how to visualise the sort of fuzziness, involving colour surfaces, coloured contour lines, and 3D simulation. The authors argued that effective visualisation of fuzzy boundaries might facilitate the understanding of geographic objects with indeterminate boundaries.



Visualising Past Geographies: The use of animated cartograms to represent long-run demographic change in Britain Humphrey Southall and Ben White

Some social processes are directly experienced, but the effects of demographic change are often slow and imperceptible. Further, in a country such as the UK there is much geographical variation and many of the extremes are found among urban populations concentrated into small areas which barely figure on conventional maps. Cartograms maps in which areas are made proportional to some other variable such as population help solve this second problem while animation deals with the first. The paper presents early results of research based on combining a large historical GIS for Britain, constructed at QMW and containing both a large volume of census and vital registration data from 1851 onwards and the changing boundaries of the various reporting units, and an algorithm developed by Daniel Dorling (Bristol) for the automatic computation of cartograms. Each district is represented by a circle whose changing radius shows population growth or decline; processes contributing to that growth, such as net migration, are shown by changing shading. The animated cartograms we create cannot be conventionally published but can be distributed on CD or viewed over the World-Wide Web.



Visualising Urban Environments for Planning and Design Martin Dodge, Andy Smith & Simon Doyle

The ability to represent, model and evaluate changes to the built environment within a computer environment on the 'desktop' or over the Internet offers the opportunity to enhance the urban planning and design process. Furthermore the application of computer based visualisation techniques allows ideas to be communicated effectively whilst also facilitating Internet based public participation.


Current research at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at UCL is focusing upon aspects of computer modelling and visualisation relevant to the planning and design of urban environments. This paper outlines how Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and World Wide Web (WWW) based virtual reality techniques are being applied to aid visualization within urban planning and design at national and local levels.





There are real technical problems underpinning work in social sciences and these tend to take lots of energy when the researcher really needs to be concerned with social processes. There is need for training and awareness and for support if the tools are to become easier to use.


There was some concern that we continue to use zones and boundaries where these may not be appropriate. In order to create the demography we have used zones but animated cartograms provide a better solution. Having said this, anything which can be done in the research lab now will be commonplace in the near future as machines become quicker and cheaper and algorithms improve or become irrelevant as more computer power becomes available.


Fuzzy boundaries are of considerable interest to researchers. This covers a range of data statistical, spatial, temporal.


It is the underlying data behind the map which is important. It needs to be tailored for the readers needs the tourist, the researcher, the planner, the government office. The social scientist should be the "auteur" the continuing challenge of delivering resources for end user authoring.


With a wide potential audience technology standards are an important consideration.


Conclusions and Recommendations

We need to bring together disparate strands of research, for example those working on fuzzy data.


We need to re-focus research on end-users:


what is the audience for social science data?

what programmes of re-education are needed to change the data visualization mindset?

what is gained/lost by using WWW to reach a mass audience?


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