Cover by Toby Segaran, Jeff Hammerbacher

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Visualization, Beauty, and Treemaps

Before we delve into the Geograph archive itself, it is worth considering some of the motivations and visual techniques that might be usefully applied to exploring the collection. The cartographic tradition has understandably focused predominantly on static products that are reproduced using traditional media. Most of our work in the last 15 years has been interactive—drawing on digital technologies to reconsider the nature and role of maps and redeploying them as responsive graphical means of querying for exploration (Fisher 1998). We have aimed to ensure aesthetic quality in the smoothness of the interactions, and satisfaction, by developing informed views and dynamic behaviors that provoke thought and discovery. However, some of our recent work has re-emphasized data density and focused back on the fundamental cartographic design decisions associated with generating layouts and symbolism (data encodings) that use space efficiently and effectively. This work has been partially motivated by hardware advances that have made processing and displaying large data-dense graphics more feasible. It is, in effect, a response to the need for new effective and aesthetically pleasing methods for graphically representing the kinds of larger data sets that are increasingly available as we follow Tufte's advice to "present many numbers in a small space" (Tufte 1983).

What Is Beauty in Visual Data Exploration?

We regard beauty to be a subjective quality associated ...

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