Knowledge Visualization: Problems and Principles of Mapping the Knowledge Space

1st Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hubertus von Amelunxen (ISNM)

2nd Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Pierre A. LÚvy (University of Ottawa, Canada)

With the advent of digital communication technologies, an enormous quantity of information can be stored and transferred. But with increasing possibility comes increasing complexity. As indicated by the dissatisfaction often experienced by users of information technology, current systems of accessing, organizing and navigating information are proving insufficient. Visualization, the representation of information on an interactive map, is a strategy to make more efficient use of cognitive resources when processing complex information. The design of mapping systems which can not only present information but communicate knowledge, however, is lacking a comprehensive theoretical foundation. This would account for the following issues: the nature and structure of information and knowledge, the strengths and limitations of the cognitive and perceptual systems, the social context of knowledge work and visual discourse, the semiology of representation, and the implementation and assessment of interface metaphors. This thesis explores aspects of these key areas and presents a state-of-the-art in visualization strategies which are classified according to three informational meta-structures: complexity (paths), context (relationships), and dynamics (change). Analysis of these systems facilitates the distillation of the following principles for knowledge visualization design: map, optimize, stabilize, adapt, and digitalize.