I’ve recently bought an amazing book, Atlas of Science: Visualizing What We Know, both beautiful and thoughtful. It is is indeed an atlas, so do expect a lot of maps there, but these will not be your usual geographic maps – at least most of them are not. Rather, and it a very rich collection of scientific information visualizations, and in particular those trying visualize the science about science, a meta-scientific knowledge.
The books is a by-product of some sort, of an exhibition Places and Spaces: Mapping Science, or more precisely a series of unfolding exhibitions, that started back in 2005 and still in a making (they plan to add new content up until 2014)
I said it’s a large and beautiful volume, but’s it’s not your usual coffee-table book, laid to show off; it’s a treatise for a serious and thoughtful exploration; it presents a huge amount of projects, explained and visualized; the references section alone takes more than fifty pages. Although I adore the book as it is, I also do regret that it’s still a ‘dead wood’ format, printed on paper. The material it presents does beg for something more interactive, zoomable, palpable, explorative and immersive. I guess, iPad version would do better, or something like a 3D virtual world.
There is an interesting chapter on the ‘future of science map’. Here the books predicts (and I believe, rightly so, a much wider use of maps and information visualization in general, both for the development of science itself, but also as a facilitator in economic and political decision making, and in fact for exploration of the futures themselves! Of course, it expectedly refers to the unfolding phenomena of global ambient intelligence (described as the ‘global brain’), and position the future infoviz tools as a way self-reflection, almost as a planetary self-consciousness.
But I like the latest twist most: Katy Börner also writes that we need to also grow a ‘global heart’ of a sort, something more compassionate and emotional. A tough challenge for traditionally cold and rational science! And definitely a challenge for information visualization, because I guess we will need more senses than only vision to build these new representations.