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We (= the academic information visualization community) would like to encourage you to participate in collecting and discussing real-world stories that describe the real impact of data visualization. In the research community, we are very interested to see our tools and ideas being used by a wider audience. Yet, once ideas and tools have been published and made available, stories about how these tools and ideas are applied by various user groups rarely reach a wider audience. That is exactly why we recently created the Discovery Exhibition.

In order to help us understand more broadly how visualization impacts people's work or lives or leads to valuable decisions being made, we are now looking for you to send your impact stories to the Discovery Exhibition. We are also interested more generally in any comments about this initiative itself: Is it valuable? How can we best demonstrate the impact of visualization? This year's exhibition will be part of the IEEE VisWeek 2010. In contrast to a common academic contribution at a conference, we are looking for entries which share how a specific visualization tool or technique has impacted the people using it instead of describing the tool itself in detail. The deadline for this year's submissions is July 19th (see the call for participation).

In the weeks leading up to the submission deadline, we will publish short summaries of last year's entries here on In the meantime, we want to start with a great example from last year.

Read below for a short introduction to the impact of a visualization technique called Parallel Sets.

This post was written by Petra Isenberg, postdoctoral researcher at INRIA Saclay.


Parallel Sets
Parallel Sets (ParSets) is a visualization application for categorical data, like census and survey data, inventory, and many other kinds of data that can be summed up in a cross-tabulation. ParSets provide a simple, interactive way to explore and analyze such data.
The tool is freely available online so you can go an try it out for yourself.

The tool itself is very generic, so many different kinds of categorical data can be explored. Here are three concrete examples of impact:

Service Awareness Campaign
For example, the Gloucester County Council used it to analyze questionnaire data from a study on the success of an advertising campaign they had recently run. Parallel Sets allowed for the easy comparison of different questions on a single graph which greatly improved what could be seen using standard charts. The authorities used Parallel Sets to present the data and are planning further campaigns based on their results.


Record Cleanup
Mako Metrics used Parallel Sets quite creatively for a slightly different reason: data cleanup. It helped them to get a new view of their steps and to plan which steps to take during the cleanup.
They mapped cleanup steps to the canvas and could see how these steps affected the record cleanup. In the end this process led to them team fixing almost all records and had a greater understanding of the cleanup process overall.


Bank Customer Profiling
Researchers from Singapore Management University used Parallel Sets to understand the income and education profiles of bank customers and how these relate to products offered by the bank. The tool then encouraged bank analysts to combine analytics with their intuition to develop a more informed marketing strategy.


Of course these are just very short summaries. If you would like to read more about this tool visit the Discovery Exhibition website!