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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:

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