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Tutorial Workshop on Information Visualization Report

3 June 1999, Ottawa, Canada

Gaining Understanding from Information was the objective of 88 technophiles who assembled recently in Ottawa to participate in this very successful workshop. Drawn primarily from 29 industries and 11 government departments in the greater Ottawa area, these computer scientists, information specialists and software developers represented, as had been hoped for by the organizers, diverse research, development, application and decision areas. The synergy and interest was evident, not only during the breaks and lunch, but especially during the lively panel session with which the day ended.  

Margot Montgomery, Director General of IRAP, NRC's Industrial Research Assistance Program opened proceedings. She observed that, while the move to visualization began with the hard data of science and engineering, advances in computing technology have enabled those concepts to be extended to more abstract domains such as business, textual and pictorial data types. Margot also pointed out that NVision Software Systems, one of the companies involved in the Workshop, had benefited in its formative days from IRAP's assistance. 

The morning tutorial component of the Workshop was given by Nahum Gershon and Stephen Eick of the MITRE Corporation and Visual Insights respectively. Deeply involved in the CODATA Task Group on Data/Information and Visualization and acknowledged experts in the field, they reviewed basic visualization and interaction techniques, outlined the perceptual basis of how humans view graphical information, suggested a number of traps and pitfalls to avoid and concluded with a series of case studies and practical principles. The questions and discussion which arose around their presentations indicated that responsive chords had been struck. 

Current developments in the field were surveyed in the afternoon session by five speakers from industry, academia and government. Very briefly, presenters and their topics were:

Bill Wright, Visible Decisions Inc.; a synopsis and demonstration of some of the applications his firm has made in flexibly and intuitively visualizing financial, demographic and related business information;

Jeff Brainerd, Silicon Graphics; MineSet, an integrated visual and analytical data mining package which incorporates a number of visualization and database access tools designed to facilitate the knowledge discovery process;

Dan Fleet, Nvision Software Systems; NestedVision3D, an interactive facility, for visualizing relational information in three dimensions - the product being an excellent example of fruitful collaborations between Canadian academic and industrial sectors;

Paul Mezey, University of Saskatchewan; an overview of the scientific application of visualization in comprehending the sub-microscopic world of molecules and in detecting missing information in the data;

Jeff Demaine, National Research Council; Virtual Elasticity, an interface for visualizing the similarity among documents with potential applications in bibliometrics, information retrieval and file management.

What had been entitled a 'panel discussion', chaired by Martin Brooks of the National Research Council, concluded the day. However, Martin's thought-provoking initial comments so stimulated energetic participation by the audience and panelists that the session became, in essence, an open forum. In this way, issues and questions that the compact program had not had room to include were dealt with in a supportive, if not exhaustive, manner.

Program and local arrangements were cared for John Rodgers, Toth Information Systems, and Gordon Wood, National Research Council, in close collaboration with Kathy Mahoney and her team from the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation. The assistance of the following sponsors, is gratefully acknowledged:

CODATA, Committee on Data for Science and Technology of the International Council for Science;
CNC/CODATA, the Canadian National Committee for CODATA;
IEEE Ottawa Section;
National Research Council of Canada;
VP for Technology and Industry Support;
CISTI, Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information;
OCRI, Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation
Silicon Graphics Computer Systems
Toth Information Systems

G. H. Wood
J. R. Rodgers
July 6, 1999

Working to improve the quality, reliability, management and accessibility of Data for Science and Technology

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