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Visualisation in the Social Sciences Workshop
Advanced Visualisation and Virtual Reality in the Social Sciences.
Weetwood Hall, University of Leeds,
9-11 September 1998
IntroductionChair - Dave Unwin, Birkbeck College London
Introduction to Visualisation in the Social Sciences - Dan DorlingDan Dorling presented a summary of a review of visualisation in the Social Sciences carried out by himself, Scott Orford and Richard Harris. The cover of this report shows a complex graphic developed by German researchers to demonstrate world trade links. In fact, the graphic is so complex, that it is difficult to extract any useful information from it. This was used to highlight the authors' feeling that there is 'too much visualisation and not enough social science'.
What is social science? The authors accepted that definitions of which subjects made up the Social Sciences could be varied, with the subjects usually assigned to social science faculties in British universities including economics, geography, politics and sociology. For the purposes of the report they included several additional subjects areas, and gave some example uses of visualisation:
The authors found that there was much overlap and repeated work because researchers were not aware of work that had already been done or which is currently being undertaken. Because there is no 'central core' to the research, they felt there was a clear need for organisations such as AGOCG and interdisciplinary meetings within the social sciences.
Current Visualisation Practice - Paul Ell and Humphrey SouthallPaul Ell and Humphrey Southall presented the results of their survey of visualisation tools in the social sciences. The survey was conducted by means of a questionnaire, multiple copies of which were sent to the heads of department of all social science units in third level teaching institutions in the UK, 780 in total, to be forwarded to interested staff. The questionnaires were also available on the WWW (http://www.qub.ac.uk/ss/esh/visual)in Word, ASCII or HTML, and email questionnaires were also sent.
In order to encourage a wide a response as possible, including users who might be using computer graphics without being aware they were using visualisation tools, responses were specifically invited from users of:
ResultsFeedback was received on 57 different software packages used in over 30 subject areas. The greatest number of replies were received from geography departments, followed by sociology, then politics, economics and archaeology. The most common tools used in geography are GIS tools, particularly ARCINFO and ARCVIEW. Outside geography the most common tools were SPSS and Microsoft Excel. However, it was felt that in many cases those tools were being used for data storage and quantitative analysis rather than for their visualisation or graphics capabilities, indicating that visualisation was not generally used in the social sciences outside geography, except for simple graphs. A number of reasons were suggested for this:
Graphics Multimedia Virtual Environments Visualisation Contents