Atlas of Knowledge: Anyone Can Map

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by Katy Börner
Published by MIT Press
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13 x 11, 224 pp.
580 illus.
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Introduction  |  Author  |  Awards  |  History  |  Vendors  |  Images  |  References  |  Q&A  |  Press


In an age of information overload, the ability to make sense of vast amounts of data and to render insightful visualizations is as important as the ability to read and write. The Atlas of Knowledge explains and exemplifies the power of visualizations not only to help locate us in physical space but also to help us understand the extent and structure of our collective knowledge, to identify bursts of activity, pathways of ideas, and borders that beg to be crossed.

Drawing on 15 years of research and tool development, the Atlas introduces a theoretical visualization framework meant to empower anyone to systematically render data into insights. It aims to teach “timeless” knowledge that holds true over a lifetime while referring to an extensive set of references for “timely” advice on what tool and workflow is currently the best for answering a specific question. Specifically, the visualization framework uses a systems science approach to cover major types and levels of analysis; it identifies and explains different types of insight needs, data scales, visualizations, graphic symbols, and graphic variables; and it deeply integrates statistical, geospatial, topical, and network analysis and visualization.

To exemplify the framework, the Atlas features striking and enlightening new maps that visualize the structure and dynamics of science, technology, and innovation. Among these are forty maps from the popular Places & Spaces: Mapping Science that range from “Science and Society in Equilibrium” to “The Millennium Development Goals Map” to the “History of Science Fiction.”

Last but not least, the Atlas discusses science and technology trends that range from advances in data monitoring and analytics to real-time visualizations. It argues for the democratization of knowledge, examining such important steps in that direction as the setup of an international science observatory.

Readers of the Atlas will experience a boost in their data visualization literacy and feel encouraged to contribute to a more egalitarian dispersion of vital knowledge and understanding.

Quotes by Experts

“Finally, visualization reaches maturity as Katy Börner shows readers the powerful, but rarely seen, forces that shape our lives. Drawing on the work of thousands of creative visual designers, this book is a tribute to human ingenuity in creating our new world of visual thinking.”
--Ben Shneiderman, University of Maryland, author of Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction

“This isn’t just a wonderfully illustrated coffee-table book, but one of the best references ever on how to design information graphics and visualizations. Just the sections on how to choose the best way to visually represent data depending on your goals are worth the price of the entire book.”
--Alberto Cairo, University of Miami, author of The Functional Art: An Introduction to Information Graphics and Visualization

“The Atlas is a comprehensive and systematic compendium of state-of-the-art methods for knowledge communication and science evaluation. Using practical and relevant case studies, the Atlas illustrates trends in scientific knowledge management and mapping.”
--Abel L. Packer, Federal University of São Paulo Foundation, Director of SciELO / FAPESP Program 

“The human brain can process massive amounts of information either sequentially--in a series of spoken or written words—or simultaneously—in a single parallel image. This splendid new book shows a panorama of ways that empower brains to process information that is not only hard and time-consuming to describe in words, but in many cases cannot be fully understood until it is transformed into images.”
--Stevan Harnad, Université du Québec à Montréal and University of Southampton, Cognitive Scientist and Open Access Archivangelist


KATY BÖRNER is the Victor H. Yngve Professor of Information Science at the School of Library and Information Science and Founding Director of the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center at Indiana University. She is a curator of the Places & Spaces: Mapping Science exhibit. Her research focuses on the development of data analysis and visualization techniques for information access, understanding, and management. She is particularly interested in the study of the structure and evolution of scientific disciplines; the analysis and visualization of online activity; and the development of cyberinfrastructures for large scale scientific collaboration and computation. She holds a MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Technology in Leipzig, 1991 and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Kaiserslautern, 1997. Visit her home page here.


Outstanding Academic Titles of 2015 list compiled by Choice, a journal of the American Library Association. Each year, editors of the journal select what they consider to be the best scholarly books in a range of disciplines and categories, focusing on overall excellence and academic merit, originality, value to students and importance to library collections. IU faculty included on the 2015 list, along with their titles and categories, include:

  • Katy Börner, Victor H. Yngve Professor of Information Science, IU Bloomington, “Atlas of Knowledge: Anyone Can Map,” selected in the Information and Computer Science category



June 2015

Mathematical Association of America [PDF]

April 2015

The Journal Nature

April 2015

Library Journal

Spring 2015

MIT Press Spring 2015 Catalogue

September 2015

De Ingenieur

December 2015

Leonardo Online Journal [PDF]

January 2016

Choice Reviews Online [PDF]

September 2016

3D Visualization World [PDF]

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.