At present, the capacity to store digital information far exceeds the capacity to retrieve desired information. There is a premium on methods for knowledge discovery in databases, using exploratory techniques and data mining. Spatialization and visualization are central to information retrieval processes. Spatialization provides structures for organizing information, and visualization displays the results of searches.
Fabrikant (2000, p. 69) provides a classic statement of the power of spatial thinking: “Spatialization, which combines powerful visualization techniques with spatial metaphors, has a great potential to overcome current impediments in information access and retrieval. Spatialization is utilised to create lower-dimensional digital representations of higher-dimensional data sets, whose characteristics are often quite complex. These digital data sets may not be spatial in nature. Common spatial concepts such as distance, direction, scale, and arrangement which are part of the human’s experience in everyday life are applied to construct abstract information spaces.”
She applies these ideas to the information about places stored in the Alexandria Digital Library (ADL) collection (http://www.alexandria.ucsb.edu). Fabrikant (2000, p. 69) begins with a model of the visual information-gathering process, based on what she describes as “… the visual-information-seeking mantra. The mantra includes three parts: ‘Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand.’”
Figure 2.6 is an abstract model of the information-gathering process that is implemented into an experimental query interface allowing a user to visually browse through the ADL data-type catalog.