Research Challenges in Geovisualization (MacEachren & Kraak, 2001)

This article by MacEachren and Kraak (2001) presents the importance of geovisualization, and discusses research challenges in geovis based on a multi-component research agenda.

The authors discuss the process of transforming data into information and information into knowledge, an issue which I find really interesting, and which is increasingly common in the age of ‘big data’. The fact that “80% of all digital data generated today include geospatial referencing (e.g., geographic coordinated, addresses, and postal codes)” (1), there is a clear link between big data management and geovisualization. As the authors trace a brief history of cartography and technological advances in GISystems, they explain the changing role of cartography in data acquisition/management/analysis. Geovis will likely play an important role in the management of big data, as new methods of visualization and analysis are required.

While reading the article, I wondered how geovis fit into GIScience, and whether geovis fits in differently that traditional cartography. The following questions came to mind: Is ’traditional’ paper-map making a science, or an art? Is the use of GISystem technology and the knowledge required to use and maintain them what drives the science, or is it the fact that geographic information is increasingly embedded in scientific data? I would argue that because of the inherent geographic concepts behind map-making (scale, projections, distortions, etc) make a science of map-making, and the technology is only changing the way in which it is used. The embededness of geographic information in data will likely (hopefully) lead to an increased understanding and use of GIScience, and of turning data into knowledge through geovisualization.

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