Historically, when a social scientist wanted to present results of studies on aspects of human behavior, she would use numbers and statistics, but a moving picture is worth a thousand words — or pie charts or bar graphs. A new venue and program at the University of Houston Center for Public Policy (CPP) conveys study results beyond numbers and graphs.
“Dynamic Visualization engages experts who are not social scientists but know a specific problem they want to study,” said CPP Director Jim Granato. “It allows them to tell people doing the research for them what they want and what to change in the analysis. Additionally, it provides the scientists, themselves, with ways to uncover patterns that they might not otherwise see if they just used traditional tools like pie charts and graphs.”
Working with a team on loan from NASA, the center developed the Concept Visualization Lab. The data of a study is loaded into a program and then displayed in a multi dimensional and interactive way on a computer. The changes in population of one state to another, for example, can be seen over time, with the click of a mouse, dynamically and in color.
“The first application we had of this was the conductive energy device study for the city,” Granato said. “We first started out thinking we’ll just have a set of charts and graphs, but later on we realized that we could incorporate visualization to see where these events were occurring, who was doing them, to whom, over what time, things of that nature.”
The center has used the Lab to see its research on Energy Consumption, Enrollment patterns, and, currently, on studies on foreclosures in the area. Any group may request the use of the lab to consider its research.
The Concept Visualization Lab is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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