1975-present: High-D data visualization
It is harder to provide a succinct overview of the most recent developments in data visualization, because they are so varied, have occurred at an accelerated pace, and across a wider range of disciplines. It is also more difficult to highlight the most significant developments (and because we have focused on the earlier history), so there are presently areas and events unrepresented here.
With this disclaimer, a few major themes stand out
- the development of a variety of highly interactive computer systems and more importantly,
- new paradigms of direct manipulation for visual data analysis (linking, brushing, selection, focusing, etc.)
- new methods for visualizing high-dimensional data (grand tour, scatterplot matrix, parallel coordinates plot, etc.)
- the invention of new graphical techniques for discrete and categorical data (fourfold display, sieve diagram, mosaic plot, etc.), and analogous extensions of older ones (diagnostic plots for generalized linear models, mosaic matrices, etc.) and
- the application of visualization methods to an ever-expanding array of substantive problems and data structures.
These developments in visualization methods and techniques arguably depended on advances in theoretical and technological infrastructure. Some of these are: (a) large-scale software engineering; (b) extensions of classical linear statistical modeling to wider domains; (c) vastly increased computer processing speed and capacity, allowing computationally intensive methods and access to massive data problems.
In turn, the combination of these themes and advances now provides some solutions for earlier problems.
Rorick used a combination of color, maps, tables, symbols and annotation to transform often dull and incomprehensible information into something more interesting and accessible
Many sources cite Jim Flanagan as the founder of this idea with his Search Referral Zeitgeist Perl script, although the basic idea (of using word size to designate importance) had previously been used by Douglas Coupland in his 1995 novel "Microsurfs". Tag clouds are prominently featured on image/photo websites (such as Flickr), and blogs, where they can be used by visitors to navigate the website by theme or keyword. For an example of a more academic use of this technology, see the attached photos, which were generated by Dr. Christopher Green of York University using the Wordle.com website. These images (made using John Dewey's 1896 article "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology" and B. F. Skinner's 1950 article, "Are Theories of Learning Necessary?") can be studied to visually compare and summarize the similarities and differences in word usage between these two major psychological texts.
"The main innovation from Gapminder is so far 'the moving bubble chart' in the form of the Trendalyzer software that was acquired by Google in 2007. Google has made a 2008 version freely available as Google Motion Chart. Gapminder is a non-profit foundation founded in 2005 with a goal of '…increase use and understanding of statistics and other information about social, economic and environmental development at local, national and global levels.” (Rosling and Johansson, 2009).
Around this time, software for producing statistical graphs progressed from limited point-and-click interfaces and low-level graphics languages to higher-level computational languages for specifying a graph. This item recognizes the work of Hadley Wickham in the ggplot2, plyr and other R packages, but there are a number of other important contributors to this topic.