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the goal of developing information visualization techniques to allow one to view the macro-structure of patterns of propagation, ramification, and repetition.

see the excellent [The MacroScope Manifesto].

and also [this part], which was revised out of the Manifesto.

Jon, I am very impressed with the manifesto as a whole, as well as the musical visualization technique in particular. Do you have a separate name for the musical visualization technique? -- BayleShanks

No name for my twists, but I'm playing off one well-named technique ("dotplots") and I've given Martin Wattenberg's technique the name "arcplot". (and that explains the error you pointed out on my home page. I'll fix it momentarily.) --JonSchull

The term macroscope implies the development of a single visualization tool. But i read you as more wanting to develop a suite of tools, along with "A psychologically-informed methodology for visualizing biological, sociological, and technological patterns of ramification and reticulation. " Am i on target? -- BayleShanks

You are indeed. -- JonSchull

Also, what is the first picture of? The one with a sphere with green clusters inside? -- BayleShanks

This picture comes from [Caida.org] which has many other pictures (and software). You absolutely must check out the [animated version] (1 meg; worth it). -- JonSchull

You can also find that picture in the AtlasOfCyberspace, p.48. It is a 3D hyperbolic visualization of Internet topologies from the Walrus project.

I've been interested in creating an InformationVisualization PatternLanguage here for a long time. In fact, my library is full of infoviz books waiting to be mined. I gather this exactly what you're after? -- SunirShah

I'm not sure if its exactly the same. I think of PatternLanguages as archetypes. In contrast, I'm seeking to drive real empirical data through an appropriate rendering system so we'll be able to take in more of the real phenomena.

But I'm not sure. I went to the [InfoVisualization 2001 Conference] in San Diego last October to see if that discipline was what I was groping for. I came away thinking that InfoVis was an essential foundation...but a different enterprise. Perhaps...

...or perhaps not! What do you think?

You're absolutely right, a PatternLanguage is archetypical. But, hey! Let's not get Aristotelian about the definitions. I just want to build a well-formed, highly suggestive library of infoviz knowledge, in an interlocking web of connected ideas. You know, like a wiki.

I have trouble with your microscope analogy. I think of infoviz as the study of non-linear transformations from one dataspace to another, sorted in preference by the human sensory system. A microscope isn't information visualization, just like an aerial photo isn't information visualization, because both are linear. It's only through a reorganization (non-linear) of the data does the study become interesting.

A macroscope would just sample the datastream at a lower rate, providing you with a smaller scale of information to parse. This is called zooming out in terms of microscopes. A sphere at armslength may become a globe at noselength, but this isn't information visualization. It's merely information acuity. (cf. VisualAcuity)

Nonetheless, all the data sets you describe in the manifesto aren't perceptual. They need to be visualized in some artificial way. Peer-to-peer distribution happens on the Internet, which isn't in any meaningful 3D perceptual space. First you have to render it in some visual space and then you have to reduce the detail to make the macroscope perceptible. Therefore, for the intents and purposes you list, this analogy's failings aren't important.

What is important I think is that the problem you face isn't a problem of the macroscope, but simply of some non-perceptible data space. That's merely the purpose of infoviz in the first place: to make the data perceptible. -- SunirShah

I'd say an aerial camera is the analog of the macroscope and the microscope, and you raise an interesting "academic" definitional question whether visualizations using those tools should be considered “information visualization”. InfoVis does indeed usually emphasize the mapping of non-spatial data to spatial dimensions, and so I'd say that the macroscope does qualify. (I'd also say that the microscope, the camera, and the "eye" qualify because what they do is less "linear" than it might seem. An ultrasound camera of the sort used for pre-natal photography is a good example is an interesting case to ponder, re the definitional question).

I would say that sometimes zooming out makes a qualitative and not just quantitative difference. A picture of a forest is not just a picture of a lot of trees. It reveals a new structure. At that point it becomes a "macroscope", I'd say.

I'm not sure that it matters, but I think you are confusing "3D perceptual space" and "objective 3D space". (Without the ultrasound the fetus is invisible (not in 3D perceptual space) but real (and located in an objective 3D space). Regardless, you're absolutely right that what interests me is the making-perceptible of otherwise-obscure phenomena..in particular, phenomena based on informational propagation, ramification, and repetition.--JonSchull

my impression was that MacroScope essay was about the goal of applying InformationVisualization to a certain domain; the name MacroScope i thought meant the ideal of a tool that used InformationVisualization techniques to visualize "the macro-structure of patterns of propagation, ramification, and repetition".

So I suppose this would be a subset of the field of InformationVisualization, in the same way that one might say that automated medical diagnosis is a subset of the field of ArtificialIntelligence. But the name MacroScope is still useful because it draws attention to the phenomena of "propagation, ramification, and repetition" which is something that other subfields of InformationVisualization may not be focusing on. -- BayleShanks

I appreciate the support, but I'm not sure I agree (and I'm not wedded to the term “macroscope” by the way). Phenomena of “propagation, ramification and repetition” are ‘particularly’ interesting and important in our bio-techno-social world but I think the idea of a macroscope (or of InfoVis) is probably not restricted to those phenomena. (Interestingly, however, I can’t think of an example...). Another essential element in what I’m groping for is the production not just of information-rich representations, but one that plugs into and exploits our natural perceptual abilities. We need to feel more “at home” in this universe. --JonSchull



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