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Annex 6 of Visualization
of International Relationship Networks
This document is concerned with presentations of information which will
be possible once a particular computer software problem has been solved.
The problem can be illustrated by three examples:
(a) Traffic network mapping: If a database contained entries on
300 subway stations (or airports, or bus stops) and their direct route
links to one another, what is required is a software package to construct
one or more possible maps of the resulting network. The important point
is to be able to optimize the comprehensibility of such maps with minimum
manual intervention in the construction process.
(b) Hypercard stack mapping: With the widely acclaimed introduction
of the Apple hypercard, whereby complex networks of relationships between
database records can be handled, the problem remains of mapping the pattern
of relationships in the resulting hypercard stack. The individual entries
may be said to constitute "data", but it is the pattern of relationships
between them which constitutes "knowledge" and "intelligence"
(c) Mind-mapping: This is a technique currently being strongly promoted
in management training and time-management courses. It consists of manually
drawing circles to represent key ideas, objectives or activities and then
interlinking in a netwxork of relationships. There is a clear need for
a software package to facilitate this process. This could take the form
of a non-hierarchical form of the standard outline package to manage chapter
headings of a report, in which the graphic element is emphasized. There
are some resemblances to project scheduling software except that here the
emphasis is on relating concepts.
(d) Comment: Consider a relational database with records consisting
of subway stations and indications of which station was directly connected
to which other stations (and possibly on what "line").
The core problem is how to obtain/adapt/develop software which would generate
one or more maps of the subway station network. The principal constraint
is that the map should be comprehensible. It is neither required nor desirable
that the map should be constrained by some equivalent to "topographic"
constraints (namely the position of the stations should not be determined
by some form of geographic coordinates). Rather the requirement is that
the positions should be determined topologically and mapped, at least for
immediate purposes, onto a two-dimensional surface.
There are additional problems which can be treated at lower levels of priority,
if at all. They include:
A second problem is that the database in fact contains over 10,000
nodes and ways must be found to segment the network (possibly filtering
out lower levels of detail) so that maps for individual segments can be
interrelated. Such maps, in hardcopy form, will be bound together in a
book to form an "atlas".
A third problem is that it is desirable that there should be some editorial
interaction with the map to improve its visual quality.
A fourth problem is that it is desirable that it be possible to update
the data base by introducing changes interactively to the map.
A fifth problem is to open the way to using the map as a menu via which
the database can be queried for information on the nodes.