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Section: Scientific Foundations

Introduction

The visualization of data or information with the help of a computer, most often referred to as “Information Visualization”, originated from ideas in fields as diverse as computer graphics, computer-human interaction, cognitive psychology, semiotics, graphics design, cartography and graphical arts. One of its early motivations was to help users explore and analyze large quantities of data by developing software tools exploiting human visual capabilities according to  [90] , 40% of our cortical activities are dedicated to processing visual signals.

The design of new visualization methods and tools becomes even more necessary with the continuously increasing volume of available data, which poses a problem that obviously cannot be solved by relying solely on the increase of CPU power. According to the « How much information » project developed at Berkeley, one exabyte of data (1 million terabytes) was produced in 2001, with 99,997% being exclusively available digitally (see [Keim 2001]). In 2003, that quantity seen as individual data production corresponded to 800 megabytes per person in one year on the whole planet  [82] . This abundance of information of course raises many questions and problems to solve. A number of research fields now contribute in their own way to the design of methods and tools to exploit this richness of information, among which visual approaches experience growing success.


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