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Synergies between Knowledge and Information Visualizations

Knowledge Exchange Lab


November 2003 - September 2007


Budget resources of KMRC, German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft)


Students studying self-regulated in e-learning scenarios are often overwhelmed by complex and ill-structured subject matters. In order to study effectively they often need to organize and represent information and knowledge in a manner that may help them to get quick and flexible access to relevant information and knowledge. Researchers in the field of information visualization and knowledge visualization are trying to develop and use tools for fostering access to information and externalized knowledge. Although there is a mutual interest in facilitating accessibility, there are hardly any attempts to search for synergies in a mutual effort.
In the research field of information visualization one central approach is to develop efficient models to structure large and complex information sets. To accomplish that, there is a current trend to employ information visualizations, especially spatial information visualizations (so-called information spaces). Information visualizations are illustrations of huge amounts of abstract data, which do not have a natural visual representation (e.g. data files of digital libraries). Until today, the research field of information visualization mainly deals with technical questions. In the future, it is reasonable to generalize them to the context of teaching and learning. It is suggested that more emphasis should be placed on using information visualization technologies for enhancing self-regulated learning.
Knowledge visualizations are externalizations and visualizations of knowledge by means of maps, e.g. concept maps, knowledge maps. In the context of teaching and learning, the goals are both to support memory functions during exposure to knowledge and to expand them with functions of knowledge management. Methods and tools for knowledge organization and external knowledge representation are helpful if they reasonably supplement cognitive processes and memory functions (e.g., bear-in-mind, recall). Subject to the amount of functions, modern electronic mapping tools are qualified for visual representation of thoughts, conceptual knowledge, annotations to knowledge units, multimedia documents, e-mails, and links, for instance, to knowledge resources in the world wide web (URLs).
In the context of teaching and learning as well as in empirical research, existing tools are mainly studied and employed to teach conceptual knowledge, knowledge acquisition, and knowledge diagnosis. Computer-based mapping tools open new possibilities to support knowledge-based work. For example, traditional concept mapping tools, which mainly represent concept structures, are now enlarged with functions of both a dynamic-interactive representation and administration of content knowledge (knowledge of content and resources). But such possibilities are still unused in the context of teaching and learning. An investigation of their potentials for both supporting self-controlled learning and facilitating individual organisation, representation and localisation as well as the use of knowledge and knowledge resources in the framework of knowledge-based work, shave still not taken place.
Research on information visualization and knowledge visualization has shown that visualization techniques may contribute to unburdening working memory, reducing cognitive load and fostering effective studying. Up to now, both research approaches investigate the question of visualization from different perspectives. However, there are some common interests, so that synergistic effects can be expected when researchers of both research fields come together and discuss their ideas.
In the context of the present project it has been searched for both synergies between knowledge and information visualizations and techniques for the realization of synergetic approaches.
For this purpose, in May 2004 the international workshop "Visual Artifacts for the Organization of Information and Knowledge. Searching for Synergies for Enhancing Learning" at the Knowledge Media Research Center ( and in September 2006 a panel discussion at the Second International Conference on Concept Mapping in San José (Costa Rica) were conducted. The results of this research project were presented both at numerous international congresses and in numerous publications.


  • Dr. Remo Burkhard, Institute for Media and Communication Management, University St. Gallen, Switzerland.
  • Prof. Dr. John Coffey, Computer Science Department, University of West Florida as well as Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition, USA


  • Tergan, S.-O. & Keller, T. (Eds.). (2005). Knowledge and information visualization - Searching for synergies (LNCS 3426). Heidelberg: Springer.
  • Tergan, S.-O., Keller, T. & Burkhard, R. (Eds.). (2006). Special Issue on Concept Maps. Information Visualization, 5(3).
  • Keller, T., & Tergan, S.-O. (2005). Toward synergistic approaches to knowledge and information visualization. In K. Tochtermann & H. Maurer (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Knowledge Management (I-KNOW "05): Special Track on Knowledge and Information Visualization (pp. 510-517). New York: Springer.