What is the name of the game?

This is from Daniel Keim’s “Call for Papers” for the EuroVAST 2010:

“Visual Analytics is the science of analytical reasoning
supported by
interactive visual interfaces,
which requires interdisciplinary science integrating techniques from

  • visualization and computer graphics,
  • statistics and mathematics,
  • data management and knowledge representation,
  • data analysis and machine learning,
  • cognitive and perceptual sciences,
  • and more.”

Hmm, these are a lot of disciplines and my already vague understanding of what visual analytics might be, did not get any clearer. Computer science has always been good at creating new buzz words, which may generate money to fund new projects.

But I think there is more to it than just the buzz. Above list of disciplines somehow shows that all these traditional disciplines may fall short when it comes to solve today’s data analytical problems. If we (as people who may influence the direction of the one or the other discipline) would have pursued the philosophy which John W. Tukey started behind Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA) in the late 60s more openly, we would probably be a bit further by now than “Visual Analytics”.

Here is a sketch from a talk I gave 10 years ago which struggled with the quite similar problem of defining what the discipline of “Data Analysis” might look like:


Apart from all confusion around terms and disciplines, one thing is for sure: if we do not start to teach different things to our students (including the title of courses and subjects) things will hardly change.

One Comment

  1. CrisisMaven says:

    You bring analytical insights where others just are content with snazzy descriptions in their software reviews etc. This is needed as much as a deeper understanding that plotting figurres desn’t make them “truer”. But that’s for another day. What I noticed though is that while you run WORDPRESS, you do not avail yourself of it’s ability to create the blog hyperlinks as a citation of the blog post’s title (rather you have non-descript consecutive numbering like “…/?p=344”). I have it from the “horse’s mouth” that this can make a world of difference with search engines so you might consider.

Leave a Reply