Using information visualization in libraries: why, when, and how

Tanja Merčun, Maja Žumer


Information visualization communicates and presents data, information, and knowledge through a graphic display. The assumption therefore is that visual presentation supports human cognition and is able to make it easier for users to perceive, understand, comprehend, and discover knowledge in large data sets (Purchase et al., 2008; André et al., 2009; Beale, 2007). By providing useful overviews and offering interactive mechanisms for browsing and exploration, it helps users overcome large information spaces, understand the overall structure and contents of the collection or search results as well as build new knowledge, discover and understand relationships in the information space. These benefits are especially pronounced when searching large datasets (Carr, 1999; Fagan, 2006), but at the same time apply only to well-made visualizations that follow human perception principles: a poorly conceived representation could not only burden the user more, but would also disturb the user’s information-seeking process (Song, 2000).

Information visualization presents us with various possible techniques to display our data. The challenge lies in a) choosing a technique that will be most appropriate for our data and will best serve the aims of our information system and user tasks and b) using the elements of visualization in a way that will create meaning of geometric and structural patterns and convey this meaning to users in a clear, useful, and informative manner (Chen, 2010). The workshop will look at the various properties of data, visualizations, and user tasks that influence on the choice and implementation of visualization techniques.



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