Recently, Clement Levallois from Erasmus University Rotterdam published a very interesting video on the Importance of 3D layouts for network visualizations. In his study, he compared the 2D and 3D visualizations of the global science map network based on citing similarities among ISI Subject Categories as published in . The 3D interactive exploration is performed using GraphInsight while the 2D figures are screenshots taken from Pajek. I had the opportunity to exchange a few emails with Clement, and this is how 3D helped him to analyze the data:
“I find that the 3rd dimension is really helpful to find central nodes which would otherwise be “flattened” and hidden in a 2D structure.”, cit.
Despite the clear benefits of 3D in some visualization problems, the time required to determine the 2D and 3D layouts is similar: 2D embeddings have one less degree of freedom if compared to 3D embeddings, but 3D methods can unravel the network more easily because of the better “spatial” freedom.
To appreciate 3D network models you need an interactive application: without interaction 3D does not really exist. The GraphInsight software is a solution to this problem: Load your network, pick a layout technique, and interact with your data in 2D and 3D.
PS. Did you know that with GraphInsight you can mix 2D and 3D? Three simple steps: (i) generate a layout for your data with your preferred 2D method, (ii) switch to the “Nothing” method in 3D, (iii) press the “Start” button again. You did it! The graph is flattened onto a 2D plane and you can rotate it in a 3D space.
Download your free evaluation copy of GraphInsight at graphinsight.com. We support Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
 “Science overlay maps: a new tool for research policy and library management” by Rafols, I. and Porter, A.L. and Leydesdorff, L. - Journal of the American Society for information Science and Technology.