Concepts and Skills Needed for Visualization

As can be seen from the previous discussion, a student who wants to specialize in visualization needs a broadly based background. They should have some art courses such as graphics design, photography, drawing, or painting to obtain the general principles of design from an artistic viewpoint (see, for example, [LAUE90]). They need some science courses such as biology, chemistry, or physics, to be able to communicate with the scientists. They need a strong mathematical background, with calculus, linear algebra, ordinary and partial differential equations, and numerical analysis. In addition to a regular computer science background the students would also need a strong grounding in computer graphics plus some experience in computer animation.

While it might be extremely difficult, if not impossible to fit all of this into an undergraduate curriculum, a program oriented towards a Masters Degree in Visualization would be quite feasible. If we accept that to have a completely thorough understanding of visualization requires a masters level degree there are other related issues. One is what level of knowledge about visualization all computer science students should have and how should it be attained. [DENN89] gives a definition of computer science, which I have slightly modified (the modified portion is in bold italics), as follows: The discipline of computing is the systematic study of algorithmic processes that describe, transform, and provide information: their theory, analysis, design, efficiency, implementation, and application.

If one accepts that Computer Science is the science of information [CUNN91a], or at least that this is a major component of Computer Science then it would seem that all computer science students should learn some of the principles of visualization, just as they should all know some principles of human-computer interaction and computer graphics. At a minimum, they should know some of the presentation principles as presented in the Tufte books.

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Last modified on February 11, 1999, G. Scott Owen, owen@siggraph.org