5.4 Data visualisation

The map and GIS component of the ARENA interface allows portal users to interact with the data. This interaction is a vital part of the learning process and can give new meanings to data when viewed in this graphical way.

Data visualisation is nothing new; mathematicians have been using graphic representations for many years. Engineer Charles Minard utilised drawings to show the disastrous effects of the 1812 Russian campaign on the French army in the early part of the 19th century (Shaw and Tigg 1993).

Since Minard, data have been represented in two dimensions by graphs, charts etc. and in three dimensions through contour plotting. Many printed atlases of data combined with maps have been published, but it is only the arrival of computer technologies that has made true interactivity between data and graphic representation possible.

The ability to drill down into data from a map is an important interaction in computer-aided data visualisation. The ARENA search portal utilises data visualisation facilitated by a map interface for the 'where' option. These search methods are now having an impact in the commercial world and high usage search resources are available on the Internet. For example Google now offers a map interface, Google Maps, for searching and visualising search results (data).


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