Software Repository for Education and Research in Information Visualization

This paper argues for the creation of a software repository for research and education in information visualization (IV). It starts with an introduction and overview of IV online resources and software repositories. Next, we introduce the code repository we created and demonstrate how it was used in the IV course one of the authors teaches. Sample implementations by students are presented as well. We conclude with a discussion of ways to grow and maintain the software repository and invite contributions.

Information Visualization (IV) combines aspects of scientific visualization, human-computer interaction, data mining, imaging, and graphics, among others. The field is about 10 years old and fast-growing. Recently, a number of excellent textbooks have been published by Card et al. (1999), Chen (1999), Ware (1999), Spence (2000), and Dodge & Kitchin (2000). However, 2-dimensional printouts on paper often cannot convey the true visual appearance and interactive performance of certain visualizations. Therefore, several books come with accompanying web sites containing screen-sized snapshots of user interfaces as well as animations and movies. However, we believe that education and research on IV could be considerably enhanced if a general IV software repository was created. The repository would not only facilitate sharing, evaluation, and comparison of algorithms and software but also reduce the time and effort spent for repeatedly re-implementing algorithms. Data or software code repositories are frequently used in other research communities. For example, the CMU Artificial Intelligence Repository provides access to a large number of Artificial Intelligence (AI) software packages at More AI Programming Resources are accessible at In addition, a large number of Artificial Intelligence books come with software code. For more information see In physics research, many software repositories exist through which researchers all over the world can share code. One example is the CERN Program Library at It is large collection of general purpose programs maintained and offered in both source and object code. Researchers and students are encouraged to use this code repository rather than their own code. Aside from saving users time and effort, the repository code is more likely to be correct after having been tested by many other people. The aim of this paper is to generate discussion about a non-commercial IV software repository that can be used to help collectively understand the issues underlying IV and to pool existing and future IV resources. The paper starts with a review of existing IV online resources and code repositories that are known to us. Subsequently, we introduce the software repository that we designed to teach the Information Visualization course at Indiana University, Bloomington (IUB). Results of class projects accomplished by students who used the software repository are discussed. The paper concludes with a discussion and an outlook.

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