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VisiCube As A Data Microscope
In my attempt to make VisiCube both powerful and easy to use,
I chose to model the visualization aspect of VisiCube after a microscope.
VisiCube is a data microscope, a tool that allows you to look at your data,
in whole or in part, and to do so through high-resolution, accurate images.
First, though each project is based on a fixed universe of data (which you define),
VisiCube provides you the ability to define any subset, without limitation,
of the data in that universe and then to use any such subsets in the
visuals which you construct. Each such visual, then, is a microscopic slide.
The data presented in a slide can be all of the data in the universal set
or any of its subsets. Further, you can use various presentation techniques
to highlight, contrast, and compare various subsets as they intersect the
visualized data set.
Second, VisiCube provides a variety of virtual microscopes to utilize in viewing
any particular slide. A core part of VisiCube is this turret of microscopes,
each one with its own unique ability to bring out a different aspect of your data.
But the number of choices is not great. This helps keep your exploration simple,
but there is another more important reason. Though a wide variety of graphs can
be found in various analysis tools and chart generators, there are actually only
a very few ways to graph data clearly and correctly.
The landmark book, The Elements of Graphing Data by William S. Cleveland
(Hobart Press, 1994), is the inspiration for many of the graphic ideas used in VisiCube.
Chapter 4 of this book, "Graphical Perception", has been an authoritative reference
for the design of VisiCube's microscopes. The section named "Pop Charts" should be read
by anyone who wonders why VisiCube does not provide the typical pie charts and
bar charts found in many analysis tools.
The process of analysis with VisiCube then, is a process
in which you bring any of the available microscopes to bear on any
of your data set specimens. Once the microscope and data set have been selected,
you can adjust the aim and focus of the particular microscope so
that the most important aspects of the specimen are revealed.