Most library OPAC’s, and even library websites, are lacking when it comes to the presentation of information or data visualization. They are difficult to navigate, boring to look at, and using them tends to be a chore. The blog Information Aesthetics authored by Andrew Vande Moere has some interesting thoughts on the connections between information and visualization;
…information visualization can be enriched with the principles of creative design and art, to develop valuable data representations that address the emotional experience of users, instead of solely focusing on typical task effectiveness metrics. As information access enters the everyday life of users and becomes increasingly ubiquitous and pervasive, novel approaches are required that take into account considerations of user engagement and visual aesthetics. Instead of evaluating such information applications by measuring task performance and comprehension effectiveness, one should consider to determine user interest, attention, focus, enjoyment and curiosity.
If you want to find out more, an excellent presentation by Eric Rodenbeck on mapping and data visualization has just been posted at Information Aesthetics, along with a few others that are worth checking out.
I’ve been using the following programs, each of which takes a slightly different approach to the visual presentation of data, and I’ve found them useful and fun.
Newsmap is “an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator.” I’ve found it far easier to glance through this when catching up on recent events, rather than using RSS or a regular news site, and it is also pleasing to look at!
PicLens turns the browser into a full-screen, 3D viewer for photos and videos, allowing you to see and scroll through large numbers of images quickly. It’s very useful when looking for images on Flickr and totally unobtrusive. When a page has a number of images to display, a small arrow appears in the corner of each image when rolled over and clicking on the arrow opens the image browser.
Similar to PicLens is SpaceTime, which allows you to display all your search results at once, again in a 3D viewer, eliminating the need to click through many web pages searching for results.
If anyone has suggestions for similar programs that they use, let me know by leaving a comment.