Because there will always be a demand for paper mapping, studies of the effectiveness of static two-dimensional products, as well as (for example) three-dimensional scale models products are always needed. But Geovisualization techniques have extended the map medium to embrace dynamic, three- and four-dimensional data representation using methods which are interactive, capable of being supplemented by augmented and virtual realities, integrated with geodatabases, and flexible in application, platform, scale and content. In many cases these involve multidimensional and multivariate representations such as parallel coordinates plots and star diagrams, along with interactive techniques such as brushing.
A research agenda for Geovisualization was published by the ICA Commission on Visualization in 2001, and progress since then has addressed research areas such as representation methods (including virtual environments), database linkages for visualization and cognitive issues in Geovisualization and knowledge acquisition through visualization.
The more recent subject of ‘visual analytics’ extends the geovisualization metaphor further to embrace integrated data mining and the development of decision making techniques through spatial thinking, visualization, analytical reasoning and knowledge engineering. Further new visualization developments in the field of games and simulators can be profitably examined in order to adopt novel and effective tools and methods for geovisualization. Visualization is tightly linked to analysis by the means of explorative analysis.
The importance of collaborative decision making supported by spatial representations and data sets is growing in many areas of human activity. For example, instead of one planner and decision-maker there is a group of people at the same time around the same planning/decision-making task or accessing the same representation. Collaborative methods try to support these kinds of situations. In collaborative visualization instead of one person, there is a group of persons who are able to see the visualizations at the same time. This can happen in one space (for example, on a large or multi-screen or in a virtual reality cave automatic virtual environment) or in many places. Using the Internet it is possible to transfer both the visualization and the interactions of several users to allow for remote collaboration. There are technical issues such as updates, synchronization of the data transfers and management of conflicts, which need to be solved. Collaborative tools as well as single user tools enjoy the existence of multi-media.
It is important to realize that the focus of research in Geovisualization is not on the technical execution of the representation (although this is fundamental to the process), but is more directed to the data management to enable this, to possible tasks and application areas, and most notably to the role of the user in the visualization process. Thus, the impact of the visualization on knowledge acquisition (does the map present unknown information, or is it used to display and confirm previously known information?), its role as an investigative tool (is the map for private study, or is it part of a more public decision making process?), and its didactic capabilities (is the map being used interactively or is being read passively?) can be researched through models of visualization.