Do you see what I mean?
Visualizers, like logicians, have long been concerned with meaning. Generalizing from MacEachren's overview of cartography, visualizers have to think about how people extract meaning from pictures (psychophysics), what people understand from a picture (cognition), how pictures are imbued with meaning (semiotics), and how in some cases that meaning arises within a social and/or cultural context. If we think of the communication acts carried out in the visualization process further levels of meaning are suggested. Visualization begins when someone has data that they wish to explore and interpret; the data are encoded as input to a visualization system, which may in its turn interact with other systems to produce a representation. This is communicated back to the user(s), who have to assess this against their goals and knowledge, possibly leading to further cycles of activity. Each phase of this process involves communication between two parties. For this to succeed, those parties must share a common language with an agreed meaning. We offer the following three steps, in increasing order of formality: terminology (jargon), taxonomy (vocabulary), and ontology. Our argument in this article is that it's time to begin synthesizing the fragments and views into a level 3 model, an ontology of visualization. We also address why this should happen, what is already in place, how such an ontology might be constructed, and why now.