Vol.33 No.3 Aug. 1999

Data Representation Issues are Profoundly Important

Gordon Cameron

August Columns
About the Cover

From the Editor
Previous From the Editor Next From the Editor

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

Back whilst attending university in Aberdeen, I spent a couple of years studying statistics - the social statistics class proved to be the one that, I think, made me truly sit up and take notice. After hours of highly mathematical and technical classes, reading texts such as Darrell Huff’s seminal How to Lie with Statistics [3] helped make the subject come alive and gave the course, for me, a context by grounding it in “the real world.” It amazes me that so many of the lessons one could learn from Huff’s text remain “unlearned” in our media-saturated world, where their applicability is perhaps even greater than when the book was first published in the 1950s.

Several years later, I moved into the area of scientific visualization (and later computer graphics and animation) and was delighted to discover Edward Tufte’s classic (and memorably designed) books on presentation of information [4], as well as becoming aware of Al Globus and Eric Raible’s cleverly-penned paper “13 Ways to Say Nothing with Scientific Visualization” [1]. I was later lucky enough to edit an issue of Computer Graphics where Al and Sam Uselton contributed a discussion on the production of benchmark suites to facilitate visual consistency and accuracy across visualization applications [2]. Around this time I became aware of Al’s work with Nahum Gershon in organizing the popular “How to Lie and confuse with Visualization” panels. My interests in responsibility, accuracy and data representation have remained to this day, and I was delighted when Nahum agreed to put together a short mini-focus broadly covering these topics especially for this issue. One thing is clear - we are now presented with such an enormous quantity of visualized information in a variety of media - television, print, on-line - that the issues of data representation are of paramount importance, and I hope that Nahum and Alan Davis’ articles help regenerate an interest in the area. My thanks to both Alan and David for contributing to the issue.

I am also very happy that Judy Brown and Rae Earnshaw were able to put together a very thorough report covering the recent joint European Commission/National Science Foundation workshop on virtual reality and human-centered computing. The value of working with other conferences and organisations around the world cannot be underestimated, and that is one of the main reasons I’m delighted to present the report in its entirety within the pages of this issue.

The magazine bids a fond farewell to Rosalee Wolfe as Education columnist and Student Gallery coordinator. Rosalee has made phenomenal efforts in establishing both these regular features and will be sorely missed. We wish her well and I’m sure will be seeing more of her in the SIGGRAPH world! At the same time, I’d like to welcome Rosalee’s successor in the Student Gallery, Jacob Furst, from DePaul University, who will be joining the other “curators” in accepting your continued image submissions. (The Education column will most probably return with a new columnist in time for the November issue).

I hope you enjoy the issue and look forward to your comments and feedback, as always. In addition, please check out our constantly expanding on-line presence at, where you can also find a survey allowing you to present your comments on the magazine.

Best wishes.


  1.  Globus, Al and Eric Raible. “13 Ways to Say Nothing with Scientific Visualization,” Website.
  2.  Globus, Al and Sam Uselton. “Evaluation of Visualization Software,” Website.
  3.  Huff, Darrell. How to Lie with Statistics, W.W. Norton & Company.
  4.  Tufte, Edward. Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities Evidence and Narrative, and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Graphics Press.

Additional Information

Computer Graphics Editor Gordon Cameron spent his childhood skimming stones at the beach in Banff, Scotland and did his first programming at age 13 on a kindly neighbour’s Apple II Europlus. In 1995, he started working for SOFTIMAGE, Inc. in Montreal where he currently acts as Project Leader for Animation in the 3D team.

Gordon Cameron
Software Development
3510 boul. St-Laurent
Suite 400
Montreal, Quebec
H2X 2V2

Tel: +1-514-845-1636 ext.3445
Fax: +1-514-845-5676