June 24, 2011

visual information cognition: spatial visualization in 3D with GPlates

Obtaining more data and developing methods of analysis, scientists in parallel are working on information visualization as it is the most perceivable and comprehensible way for humans anyone would tell. The visual cognition (visual analysis like perception, acquisition, memorization, of shape properties and spatial relations) is remarkably flexible and efficient (Ullman 1996).

Map creation with Matematica

I believe there is a number of research  in visual spatial cognition done to prove I've just stated above. One research in 3D vs 2D proves that 3D increases the spatial memory, what means one is able to remember at least longer. (Cockburn, 2004), although in general it is very hard to prove something about our brain using the same brain itself.

Indeed, I am not going to argue here if 3D is better then 2D or that visual information is perceived better than textual, as more research on this topic should be done from my side. But all I want to notice, that more and more softwares are developed for spatial information visualization.
If you have a look at the geoweb side, many applications recently launched has a graphical visualization. Statistics are no longer presented as a bunch of numbers, visual interface is developing,as example Gapminder, or new visualization package, google visualization api package in R software.
Map making has reached the peak already - everybody can do it from simply route creation on Google Maps or Google Earth, to table visualization using Google Fusion Tables, or such geoweb applications like GeoCommons, or we can jump to professional map creation and visualization. Already existing desktop applications that help to visualize data are often updated, besides new desktop softwares with an amazing visualization arise.

Let's have a look at such hard subject as plate-tectonics and it's visualization.

The whole globe has such a large scale that humans cannot simply perceive it personally. The image, the idea how does it look like many of us get from maps, globe models, and nowadays 3D maps, and it's like a common knowledge that seems everyone have it. But what about those global unstable phenomena? I would say it is still hard to understand and to imagine for every person, still hard to understand such phenomena as plate-tectonics.

To help to understand and 'personally'to perceive plate movement, the open source desktop softwar called GPlates was recently launched and updated.
Shortly, as written in their page it is a "novel combination of plate-tectonic reconstructions, geographic information system (GIS) functionality and raster data visualisation. GPlates enables both the visualisation and the manipulation of plate-tectonic reconstructions and associated data through geological time."
And there is a small video (visual cognition, a?!) made:

Indeed it's an interesting software, I am going to have a look at.
And it's definitely not the only one..  lately created.


  1. Nice article!, and btw there is a nice journal called Information Visualisation. Take a look at http://ivi.sagepub.com