Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Geographic Visualization by Martin Dodge, Mary McDerby and Martin Turner

Geographic Visualization provides a broad overview of the current concepts and methods behind spatial representation and communication. The book looks beyond the typical visualization techniques and explores some of the social aspects of geographic representation, showing that visualization can not only show the act of communication but that it can also be an act of communication.

The collection of articles within the book range from technically applied work addressing cartographic conventions or GIScience to more theoretical questions regarding the roles of space and place in our rapidly evolving technical world. For example, Michael Goodchild explores the role of Google Earth and its potential impact on the social sciences by examining the technical advantages and limitations of meshing a collaborative spatial environment with quantitative information generated from a variety of scientific fields. The book offers more information than one would typically find concerning technical executions within the different visual forms of communication.

In a less technical fashion, Andy Hudson-Smith explores the development of virtual social spaces ranging from immersive environments, such as Second Life, to networking sites such as Twitter. Hudson-Smith identifies three different kinds of space: visual, informational and perceptual. He notes that the progression of perceptual space binds the users to their social environments through communication. In a very compelling manner, the book gives examples of collaborative virtual environments that may give a greater sense of belonging to the users that have built and frequent occupy those spaces.

Overall, the book provides some valuable insight into effective visual communication and the emergence of several new forms of collaborative social environments. The collection of material does, however, suffer in trying to establish the intended audience for the book as a whole. Some of the chapters seem as if they should be bound in separate publications, such as the article on visualizing uncertainty as compared to the chapter on the art of landscape visualization. Also, some references within the book are presented several times, but the same details are covered as if the information is unique in every context. The editing shortcomings are generally minor and the book provides a solid breadth of information regarding contemporary geographic visualization.

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