Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Visualization Tools: The Good and The Evil

I was most interested in the Visual Thesaurus. I enjoyed that the word you wanted to find synonyms for was at the centre of the map, and the others were attached and interconnected according to meaning. Not only did the map show which synonyms matched my word, but it also enabled me to deduce the word that best fit the meaning I desired. When you hover your mouse over a point on the map a definition is given, and often a sentence which uses the word correctly. It is common, when using a thesaurus, to replace one word with another that is synonymous but inappropriate in the given context. The organization of the map and the sample sentence given in the visual thesaurus help to eliminate this traditional problem with thesaures. The site was also fun to use, simple, and aesthetically appealing.

My least favourite tool was the Touchgraph Google Browser. I disliked it primarily because I tried to access it from my home computer and it would not open! After several attempts i became frustrated, which is to be expected. Now, I like to think that I have some sophisticated knowledge of computers, since we've been raised to use them from childhood, but I have no idea why it wouldn't work. Now, i was able to see sample graphs from the Touchgraph home page, and they seemed very complex and detailed. The idea is very interesting to me, but I am unsure whether my technical knowledge would be suffice for me to have an appreciation for such a complex graph. In any case, I also enjoyed the visual depiction of the news at news.stamen.com, but found that the same meaning could not be conveyed through visual representation as it could be through print. Perhaps this is an obvious statement, but perhaps a necessary one. The visual representation is interesting, and it was interesting to see the lists of gainers, losers and top people but there lacked justification of these claims and as such the rankings seemed somewhat arbitrary. Regardless of the confusion, the idea was interesting and the site was fun to play with.

Of the two visual tools I was able to use, the Visual Thesaurus was my favourite and the visual representation of the news at news.stamen.com was my least favourite. Its too bad that you have to buy a membership to the visual thesaurus, otherwise i would use it all the time!

Katie Ablett


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