The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis


CASA Working Paper 94


1 July 2005

Information Maps: Tools for Document Exploration

So much has already been written about everything that you can't find out anything about it. - James Thurber (1961)

This white paper defines information mapping and reviews a range of examples. The focus is on two-dimensional interactive information maps that can be used to summarise large volumes of textual information, provide interfaces to browse the whole corpus and retrieve particular documents of interest. Information maps are being developed to tackle the modern-day challenges of information overload - too much, too fast and too unmitigated. The average person sitting at a networked PC has access to a huge (and hugely growing) array of textual data that can be utilised as a vital information resource in helping to make decisions. The data are in the form of documents on their own hard disk, messages pouring in through email and IM, from databases on intranets and digital libraries on the Internet and, of course, there is the expanse of the World-Wide Web, encompassing several billion static pages and an unknown volume of dynamically generated content. All these data are available at a mouse-click but they are beyond easy comprehension in their original forms, and can more often hinder, rather than help, us in finding answers and making appropriate decisions. To take the case of the Web, we are all familiar with using current Internet search engines to find an answer to a basic query and being overwhelmed with a lengthy list of matching pages. Too often, one retreats from this type of information-seeking with a sense of defeat, having been buried by the sheer volume of potentially relevant data and yet not being able to find answers. Information mapping is one of the most useful means of assisting information seeking by summarising and visualising the non-visual content, structures and interrelationships of thousands of documents. Crucially, the information map should summarise the salient content and context of the documents, unlocking their value, without one actually having to read them all.

This working paper is available as a PDF. The file size is 387KB.

Authors: Martin Dodge

Publication Date: 1/7/2005

Download working paper No. 94.