Visage is an information visualization tool developed at MAYA in the 1990s that is still one of the few truly information-centric* paradigms in existence today. This demonstration uses a stripped-down prototype version of Visage to illustrate a particularly important concept from Trillions called “Polymorphism.” Simply put, polymorphism is the idea that an information object (i.e…a thing) can look different depending on what you use to look at it.
For example, in the table on the left are some information objects. If you drag one object from the table onto the map (go ahead…try it), it displays on the map. How does it do this, you ask? Well maps understand certain things. Particularly, they understand latitude and longitude. So when the map looks at an object, it says, “oh! I know what lat and lon are and how to display them!” So it displays the object using the information it understands, ignoring the information it doesn’t understand. Importantly though, that extra information is not deleted…it remains part of the object. It’s just not used in this particular case.
Similarly, if you drag an object onto the bar chart, it just displays the population. The bar chart knows how to display numbers. So when it sees a number for population, it displays that and ignores everything else (how does it know not to display lat and lon?).
So go ahead and play with it. Drag the objects from one visualization to another, and see how they display differently, but do not actually change in any way. You can also hold the Shift key while you are dragging to “clone” the object. That way you can look at it through multiple lenses at the same time.
*Information-centricity: Notice that in Visage, what you are working with are information objects. The different visualizations could be thought of as “applications,” but they are not the fundamental thing that you interact with. The spreadsheet could be thought of as a “document,” but the focus is on directly manipulating the individual rows…the information objects themselves.