Posts Tagged ‘Kraak’

Realized geovisualization goals

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

MacEachren and Kraak authored this article in 2000, a year before the release of Keyhole Earthview and five years before Google Earth. In the piece, the authors show the results of collaborations of teams of cartographers and their decisions on the next steps in geovisualization. They mention broad challenges pertaining to data storage, group-enabled technology, and human-based geovisualization. The aims are fairly clear, but there are very few, if any, actual solutions proposed by the authors.

While reading the article, I had to repeatedly remind myself that it was written a dozen years ago, when technologies were a bit more limited. Most notably, there appears to be a very clear top-bottom approach in the thinking here, very reminiscent of Web 1.0, where information was created by a specialized provider and consumed by the user. In the years since this piece was written, Web 2.0—stressing a sharing, collaborative, dynamic, and much more user-friendly paradigm—has largely eclipsed the Web as we understood it at the turn of the millennium. In turn, many of the challenges noted by MacEachren and Kraak have been addressed in various ways. For one, cloud storage and cheaper physical consumer storage have in large part solved the data storage issue. Additionally, Google has taken the driver’s seat in developing an integrated system of database creation and dynamic mapping, with Fusion Tables and KMLs, that are both extremely user-friendly. And there are constantly applications and programs being created and launched that enable group mapping and decision support. MacEachren and Kraak did not offer concrete solutions, but the information technology community certainly has.

– JMonterey

So many challenges, so many opportunities

Friday, February 10th, 2012

MacEachren and Kraak address the notion of visualizing the world and what this exactly entails. The article was written over a decade ago and is still as relevant today as it was then, and centuries ago. “…80 percent of all digital data generated today include geospatial referencing” (1). A powerful sentence that altered my perspective on geographic visualization (geoviz), when I first read this article a few years ago. There is so much to explore, to reveal; the sky is the limit.  Geoviz is about transformations and dichotomies; the unknown versus known, public versus private, and high versus low-map interaction (MacEachren, 1994). It aims to determine how data can be translated into information that can further be transformed into knowledge. MacEachren and Kraak provide a critical perspective into the world of geoviz and its vexing problems. They do a good job in convincing us that a map is more than a map. Maps have evolved by means that “maps [are] no longer conceived of a simply graphic representations of geographic space, but as dynamic portals to interconnected, distributed, geospatial data resources” (3). “Maps and graphics…do more than ‘make data visible’, they are active instruments in the users’ thinking process” (3).

Out of the many challenges that we still face (also by Elwood) there are some that have been tackled successfully. The one I will focus on is ‘interfaces’ in relation to digital earths. Arguably, I believe that no one would have imagined the progress made with digital earths, especially Google Earth (GE) back in 2001. GE remains untouchable in its user-friendly display, mash-ups are through the help of Volunteered Geographic Information(VGI), including programmers who are contributing free software, interoperable with GE (GE Graph, Sgrillo). However, the abstract versus realism issue is relevant as ever. The quality and accuracy of the data may be low yet the information visualized will look pristine, and vibrant, thus deceive the user to believe otherwise. How do we then address levels of accuracy? Abstraction? Realism? Thus, we have challenges but we also have progress. MacEachren and Kraak’s article refocuses our attention on the pertinent obstacles that we should be mindful when exploring, discovering, creating or communicating geoviz. To move away from the “one tool fits all mentality” (8). To unleash the creativity from within.

MacEachren’s simple yet powerful geovisualization cube.


-henry miller