3D GEOVISUALIZATION – DEFINITION AND STRUCTURES FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF USEFULNESS
Keywords: Three-dimensional, Spatial, Visualization, Data, Exploration, Analysis, Tasks, Proposal
Abstract. 3D geovisualizations are quite popular, typical examples include 3D city models or virtual globes. They are reported to be more useful when they not only depict the real world but also include additional information. The creation of 3D geovisualizations is often very technology driven and we are yet missing solid theory. The paper aims to compile definitions and structures that allow the consideration and evaluation of the usefulness of 3D geovisualization with additional abstract information less focussing on technical and implementational aspects. The different purposes of 3D geovisualizations, as illustrated through the geovisualization cube, together with considerations of the specific characteristics of 3D visualizations, for example the inherent need for navigation, build the base for conscious design decisions. Those decisions can build upon existing theories from related disciplines, such as cartography or information visualization, but need to consider onto what dimension of the three-dimensional space the data is mapped. A categorisation of the use of 3D space is discussed before reviewing different task definitions. A generic task structure which allows separation between interaction and navigational tasks together with the presented definitions and the categorisation of using 3D space build the basic framework for considering, evaluating and discussing the usefulness of 3D geovisualizations and ultimately support 3D geovisualization theory building. The knowledge of what works well and is useful in specific contexts can improve future technological developments and hopefully make 3D geovisualizations become an important tool for the visual exploration of 3D geospatial data sets.