Interactive maps for visual data exploration
Descartes (formerly called IRIS) is a software system designed to support visual exploration of spatially referenced data, e.g. demographic, economical, or cultural information about geographical objects or locations such as countries, districts, or cities. Descartes offers two integrated services: automated presentation of data on maps, and facilities to interactively manipulate these maps. Automated mapping is enabled by incorporating generic knowledge on map design into the system. Descartes selects suitable presentation methods according to characteristics of the variables to be analysed and relationships among those variables if more than one were selected simultaneously. The cartographic knowledge of Descartes allows non-cartographers to receive proper presentations of their data, and the automation of map construction helps the users to save valuable time that can better be used for data analysis and problem-solving. Exploratory data analysis requires highly interactive, dynamic data displays. We strive to develop various interactive techniques for map manipulation that could enhance the expressiveness of maps and thus promote data exploration. We are convinced that a technique can be made especially productive if it is directed towards a particular presentation method: it can utilise peculiarities of this method and support those analytical operations that best fit to the method.