Information Visualization & Visual Data Mining

Instructor: David Gloag
In this lesson, we will define Visualization and Information Visualization. We will then discuss Visual Data Mining and how it is related to Information Visualization.

Seeing What is Necessary

We gather information faster than you can imagine. We collect purchase information to get a handle on spending habits, we record transaction information so that we can see how our business is performing, and we gather local news stories to keep abreast of what is going on around us. You might even say we can't live without information. This is likely to continue as we push ourselves to learn more about our world. But how do we keep it from overwhelming us? How do we pull what is necessary from the vast amount of information we collect? There are a number of ways. One is to use the concept of visualization, and the related concept of information visualization.

What is Visualization?

Visualization is the process of representing a thought, impression, or notion in some sort of visual terms. The idea is to convey the concept in a simple fashion, so that idea can be quickly and easily understood. You may not realize it, but we do this often in our daily activities. Perhaps you tried to explain something to a friend by waving your hands or using hand gestures. Or, have you tried to verbally paint a picture? Most of us have done at least one of these. These are examples of using visualization to try to explain a concept.

What is Information Visualization?

Information Visualization is more specific than visualization itself. In particular, what it represents visually is different. It uses gathered information instead of a thought, impression, or notion. We see examples of information visualization almost daily. These include the graphs on your favorite weather channel, the maps available online through services like Google, and even the special effects in the movies we see. Information Visualization takes the raw information we gather and represents it in a visual form that we can more readily digest.

What is Data Mining?

Data Mining is closely related to information visualization. It is one of the processes that can be used to convert information into something that can be presented visually. In particular, it orders, looks for patterns, and processes large collections of information. Often, it makes use of several technical disciplines including computer science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, database technology, and statistics. In the end, the goal is to arrive at meaningful conclusions based on the seemingly random input of information.

Let's look at an example. Say we have a group of numbers that looks like; 12, 4, 0, 20, 16, 8. They appear to be random, but are they? Let's impose some order - say, smallest to largest. The result is 0, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20. Is there a pattern? If you look closely, you'll see that there is. Specifically, each value in the sequence (i) can be generated using the formula:

  • i = 4k, where k = 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

We can even predict that the next number in the sequence would be 24 (4 x 6). Now, keep in mind that this example is simple, but you get the idea.

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