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Visweek 2011 – Perception and Cognition for Visualization, Visual Data Analysis & Computer Graphics

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I had mentioned in an earlier post that this tutorial promises to be an amazing one and so it was. Here is an outline of the workshop.

Bernice E. Rogowitz covered fundamentals in human perception and cognition, and discussed how they apply to visualization. She covered a huge array of topics, ranging from the pupil being partially responsible for our depth perception, all the way to color theory and how it relates directly to the biology of the human eye.

The presentation had a great flow, starting at a very high level to give everyone an idea of what questions they would be able to answer at the end. As the talk progressed, she covered detailed biological details of the human eye, and progressed to the intersection of perceptual issues and computer science.

In the biological portion, we learned that there are five layers of cells in the retina, each responsible for different tasks. Much of the interesting stuff happens at the very beginning (photoreceptor distribution) and then further into the process at the ganglion cells. She went over how lateral inhibition is caused by the spatial distribution of the photoreceptors connected to a single ganglion cell, and how this is the reason for several of the optical illusions we perceive. She did a great job of explaining the connections between biology and perceptual issues.

Cultural differences were also addressed. The eye movements we have are actually learned when we learn how to read. Cultures with different reading directions have substantially different reading directions.

The section on the Striate Cortex was especially interesting. This is the first time in the visual system that images from each eye are merged (the point where depth perception occurs). This section sends output to 60% of the brain! This is a huge amount, and makes the visual system incredibly important to the decision making process.

This tutorial had a huge quantity of useful information and was really well put together! She concluded with a great summary of four things to remember:

  1. There are different response rates for different stimuli, how well do you want to convey magnitude information?
  2. Color and luminance mechanisms have different spatial sensitivities.
  3. Certain visual information is perceived “pre-attentively” such as color.
  4. How the world is perceived depends on what the user is trying to accomplish.
These notes were transcribed by Lane Harrison (@laneharrison) and Drew Skau(@seeingstructure). They are both graduate students at UNCC. Thanks guys!! This is almost as good as being there.

Visweek 2011 – VAST Challenge

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The IEEE VAST Challenge this year consisted of three mini challenges and one “grand challenge”. For the uninitiated, the challenge datasets are designed to reflect real-world analytical challenges. This year’s challenges involved microblog+geospatial data, cyber security data, and a corpus of plain-text news documents.

While there is no “winner”, the challenge entries are given awards based on their respective strengths. Participants are also given detailed feedback from both visualization experts and actual analysts who work with such data. This feedback is one of the most rewarding aspects of the VAST Challenge. As we all know, it’s hard to get access to analysts.

One highlight is a geo-text visualization approach from the Universität Stuttgart. ContentLens is a novel integration of tag-cloud methods and geo-visualization and interaction techniques. Perhaps if you ask nicely, they’ll give another demo.

Another interesting approach come from Penn State, who leverage their GeoViz toolkit to analyze a large (10gb+) set of cyber security data. In fact, the security data took center stage in a panel of security and/or visualization practitioners.

Some key points in the panel suggested a need for smart collaboration in large-scale security analysis. Analysts can often unnecessarily repeat work or miss threats that has already been addressed by other analysts in their organization. Maybe we need an “Amazon- Recommendations” component for security analysis tools.

Finally, workshop participants heard about and discussed the possible future VAST Challenges. Can visual analytics handle a million-node network? Can this community design tools that enable consumers to make discoveries in the vast sea of data that surrounds them? Well, that’s up to you.

Link to detailed challenge descriptions: .

These notes were transcribed by Lane Harrison (@laneharrison) and Drew Skau (@seeingstructure). They are both graduate students at UNCC. Thank you guys!!

Written by alark

October 25, 2011 at 9:00 am

Visweek 2011 – Telling stories with data

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Workshop: Telling Stories With Data 

The Telling Stories With Data session was a continuation of last year’s session, largely inspired by the Edward Segel and Jeffrey Heer paper; “Narrative Visualization: Telling Stories with Data.”

Steve Drucker from Microsoft Research talked about his rich interactive narrative player work. The tool uses XML to set up a queue of keyframes with audio narration. It supports audio narration and multimedia embedding.

Wesley Willet talked about supporting ad-hoc storytelling in social media. He raised several technical issues, including the need for interactive visualization state encoding in URLs. This would allow people to link to a specific state in the visualization, and share that state over social media.

Jerome Cukier talked about adding personal connections to visualizations to help audience engagement. He also discussed the importance of providing interaction that lets users feel like they are exploring the dataset and coming to their own conclusions. A significant take- away quote Jerome had is “Trust is not really an exact science.”

Sunah Suh framed a discussion about the impact of culture on visualization and visualization on culture. She discussed the multiple forms of literacy beyond just natural language, addressing issues of statistical literacy as well as visual. She raised the point that visualization does not just reflect and rely on societal norms, it also reinforces them. One example she gave was the pink and blue color coding in Baby Name Voyager reinforcing a binary gender concept.

The takeaways from the first half of the session dealt with technical issues of platforms and tools to support narratives, as well as some of the social issues going on in narrative visualizations. Both of these are important issues as narrative visualization finds its place in culture. The necessary tools must be developed to help narrative visualization become ubiquitous, but also there are social issues to be addressed as people come to terms with the new media. 

These notes were transcribed by Lane Harrison (@laneharrison) and Drew Skau(@seeingstructure). They are both graduate students at UNCC. Thanks guys!! There were other excellent speakers who presented, but Drew and Lane were presenting in an adjoining session.

Written by alark

October 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Visweek 2011 is upon us!

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The annual IEEE Visualization, IEEE Information Visualization and IEEE Visual Analytics Science and Technology conferences – together known as IEEE Visweek will be held in Providence, RI from October 23rd to October 28th.The detailed conference program is spectacular and can be downloaded here.Some of the new events this year are under the Professional’s Compasscategory. It includes a Blind date lunch (where one can meet some researcher they have never met and learn about each others research), Meet the Editors (where one can meet editors from the top graphics and visualization journals), Lunch with the Leaders session (an opportunity to meet famous researchers in the field) and Meet the faculty/postdoc candidates (especially geared towards individuals looking for a postdoctoral position or a faculty position). I think this is an excellent idea and hope that the event is a hit at the conference.I am also eagerly looking forward towards the two collocated symposia – IEEE Biological Data Visualization (popularly known as biovis) and IEEE LDAV (Large data analysis and visualization).  Their excellent programs are out and I’d encourage you to take a look at them.

The tutorials this year look great and I am particularly looking forward to the tutorial on Perception and Cognition for Visualization, Visual Data Analysis and Computer Graphics by Bernice Rogowitz. Here is an outline for the tutorial that can be found on her website. She was one of the first people to recommend that people STOP using the rainbow color map.

The telling stories with data workshop too looks great and will be a continuation of the great tutorial held by the same group last year. I am eagerly looking forward to it.

Apart from this are the excellent papers that will be presented at the conference. I shall write another post about the ones I am particularly looking forward to. With so many exciting events going on, it almost seems like a crime to have all of them happening in the span of a few days.

I shall definitely be blogging about the event as much as I can. You can also follow me on twitter, which will have more real time tweets than the blog which will distil a days worth of information into a post.

Let me know if you are going to be around and I’ll be happy to talk to you.

Written by alark

October 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Things to look out for at InfoVis 2009

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InfoVis (Information Visualization) 2009 is an integral part of the Annual VisWeek conference. This year the VisWeek conference will be held in Atlantic city, NJ from October  11th-16th. In the next few posts, I shall post my views on things to look out for in each of the tracks at the VisWeek conference: VAST, Vis and Infovis. Here are some exciting talks/panels/workshops/tutorials that I’m looking forward to at InfoVis this year (Links and other material shall be updated as material becomes available):

Collaborative Visualization on Interactive Surfaces (CoVIS)
Organizers: Petra Isenberg, Michael Sedlmair, Dominikus Baur,
Tobias Isenberg, Andreas Butz

Visualization and Analysis Using VisIt
Organizer: Hank Childs

Exploring Design Decisions for Effective Information Visualization
Organizers: Jo Wood, Jason Dykes, Aidan Slingsby

Keynote: Visual Thinking and Visual Thinking Tools
Speaker: Colin Ware, Data Visualization Research Lab, University of New Hampshire

Changing the World with Visualization
Organizer: Robert Kosara
Panelists: Sarah Cohen, Jerome Cukier, Martin Wattenberg

InfoVis Best Paper Award
ABySS-Explorer: Visualizing Genome Sequence Assemblies
Cydney B. Nielsen, Shaun D. Jackman, Inanç Birol, Steven J.M. Jones

InfoVis Best Paper Award
Mapping Text with Phrase Nets
Frank van Ham, Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda B. Viégas

InfoVis Honorable Mention
MizBee: A Multiscale Synteny Browser
Miriah Meyer, Tamara Munzner, Hanspeter Pfister

InfoVis Honorable Mention
Configuring Hierarchical Layouts to Address Research Questions
Aidan Slingsby, Jason Dykes, Jo Wood

InfoVis Honorable Mention
SellTrend: Inter-Attribute Visual Analysis of Temporal Transaction
Data, Zhicheng Liu, John Stasko, Timothy Sullivan

Spatiotemporal Analysis of Sensor Logs using Growth Ring Maps
Peter Bak, Florian Mansmann, Halldor Janetzko, Daniel A. Keim

A Nested Model for Visualization Design and Validation
Tamara Munzner

“Search, Show Context, Expand on Demand”: Supporting Large Graph Exploration with Degree-of-Interest
Frank van Ham, Adam Perer

A Comparison of User-Generated and Automatic Graph Layouts,
Tim Dwyer, Bongshin Lee, Danyel Fisher, Kori Inkpen Quinn, Petra Isenberg, George Robertson, Chris North

Visualizing Social Photos on a Hasse Diagram for Eliciting
Relations and Indexing New Photos, Michel Crampes, Jeremy de Oliveira-Kumar, Sylvie Ranwez, Jean Villerd

Bubble Sets: Revealing Set Relations with Isocontours over Existing Visualizations
Christopher Collins, Gerald Penn, Sheelagh Carpendale

Temporal Summaries: Supporting Temporal Categorical Searching, Aggregation and Comparison
Taowei David Wang, Catherine Plaisant, Ben Shneiderman, Neil Spring, David Roseman, Greg Marchand, Vikramjit Mukherjee, Mark Smith

Lark: Coordinating Co-located Collaboration with Information Visualization – YouTube Video Paper link
Matthew Tobiasz, Petra Isenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale

Harnessing the Web Information Ecosystem with Wiki-based Visualization Dashboards
Matt McKeon

SpicyNodes: Radial Layout Authoring for the General Public
Michael Douma, Grzegorz Ligierko, Ovidiu Ancuta, Pavel Gritsai, Sean Liu

code swarm: A Design Study in Organic Software Visualization
Michael Ogawa, Kwan-Liu Ma

Protovis: A Graphical Toolkit for Visualization
Michael Bostock, Jeffrey Heer

Participatory Visualization with Wordle
Fernanda B. Viégas, Martin Wattenberg, Jonathan Feinberg

Capstone: Visual aids: Use of Paintings and Photography for Lighting in the Theater
Speaker: Brian MacDevitt, Broadway Lighting Designer

Things to look out for at VAST ’09

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VAST is the Visual Analytics track at the Annual VisWeek conference. This year the VisWeek conference will be held in Atlantic city, NJ from October  11th-16th. In the next few posts, I shall post my views on things to look out for in each of the tracks at the VisWeek conference: VAST, Vis and Infovis. Here are some exciting talks/panels/sessions that I’m looking forward to this year (Links and other material shall be updated as soon as the papers are available):

Interactive Visual Clustering of Large Collections of Trajectories,
Gennady Andrienko, Natalia Andrienko, Salvatore Rinzivillo, Mirco Nanni, Dino Pedreschi, Fosca Giannotti

A Framework for Uncertainty-Aware Visual Analytics
Carlos D. Correa, Yu-Hsuan Chan, Kwan-Liu Ma

Parallel Tag Clouds to Explore and Analyze Faceted Text Corpora (YouTube Video)
Christopher Collins, Fernanda B. Viégas, Martin Wattenberg

Describing Story Evolution from Dynamic Information Streams
Stuart Rose, Scott Butner, Wendy Cowley, Michelle Gregory, Julia Walker

Evaluating Visual Analytics Systems for Investigative Analysis: Deriving Design Principles from a Case Study
Youn-ah Kang, Carsten Görg, John Stasko

Visual Analysis of Graphs with Multiple Connected Components
Tatiana von Landesberger, Melanie Görner, Tobias Schreck

VAST Best Paper Award: Iterative Integration of Visual Insights during Patent Search and Analysis
Steffen Koch, Harald Bosch, Mark Giereth, Thomas Ertl

FinVis: Applied Visual Analytics for Personal Financial Planning
Stephen Rudolph, Anya Savikhin, David S. Ebert

Visual Opinion Analysis of Customer Feedback Data
Daniela Oelke, Ming Hao, Christian Rohrdantz, Daniel A. Keim, Umeshwar Dayal, Lars-Erik Haug, Halldór Janetzko

VAST Capstone Panel
How Interactive Visualization Can Assist Investigative Analysis: Views and Perspectives from Domain Experts
Organizer: John Stasko
Panelists: Sarah Cohen, Lawrence Hunter, Joe Parry

Are you planning to come by to the VisWeek conference? Is so, which sessions are you interested in?

Written by alark

October 6, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Visualization tools and their use

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In the past, I have discussed visualization tools and a few companies that make them. They are used by a wide variety of professionals such as the Business Intelligence community, Scientific Data explorers, Financial data analysts and many more users.

I feel though that more often than not such tools are an afterthought in a company’s think tank and require a significant amount of training, learning and overcoming a mental block by the senior management of a company. Companies such as Tableau Software, Spotfire, and many others must have excellent sales teams which, on identifying companies that may be able to benefit from their really stellar software, have to then pitch it to them. Even if the software blows the company management away, the reluctance on their part in adopting it surely must be a problem. Additionally, I am sure that even if the top management think its a great idea, the real users (lower level management/marketing/sales professionals) might not have the time and willingness to invest into using the software.

I know that the people behind these visualization companies are brilliant researchers who are not only innovating in the field of visualization but also taking the extra effort to improve on proven visualization techniques in order to make them easy to use. 

I feel very strongly about this matter and wonder if a few things can be done to avoid this situation in the future. Clearly, just as training radiologists and other medical software users to use 3D volume rendering software is an uphill task, training business analysts to use visualization tools must be a difficult task.

1 – Provide an educational version of the software that can be available and used only through academic institutions. They could be fully featured or have only some evaluation features but let your software be one of the first tools that students use when analyzing their data. That will ensure that at least a few of them will be trained in using the tool when they go on to join a company and root for your visualization software at the company. If you think about it, companies like Microsoft allow free downloads of their express edition of Visual Studio for students which ensures a familiarity with the software that developers then take to companies when they join there. In my experience, students are far more ready to learn new software and technologies as compared to senior management in a company. They also have more time on their hands and can devote more time to learn the spiffy new features in your visualization software.

2 – Developing a course or two for data analysis in conjunction with a professor at a university – Merely providing educational versions of the software is of limited value. An interesting data analysis course that teaches use of your software or two/three other similar software tools along with basics of data analysis and an overview of visualization techniques might be another interesting way to approach the problem.

3 – Provide easy to use learning material – Take the time and make sure to have tutorials and multitudes of examples on your website that will allow users to use them and improve over time. Having a free PDF book or a step-by-step tutorial can vastly benefit the user and take some load off of your hands for training purposes. Tableau software does an amazing job in the training realm as can be seen by the examples at You can even download a ‘workbook’ for each example and play around with it in your copy of the software.

4 – Provide free training in the form of Webcasts – Recently, nvidia had a few webcasts focused on CUDA and its applicability for general purpose computing on the GPU. The webcast consisted of a few nvidia developers giving a presentation and answering some questions at the end. The webcast was free and was a great way to indoctrinate a few more researchers to use CUDA for which they would have to buy nvidia graphics cards. I thought it was a great idea which could be taken even further when applied to visualization software. If your users already have a running software, then publishing sample datasets and walking them through it can be even more compelling and interactive than reading an online tutorial or a book chapter.

5 – Providing training at a conference or a workshop might be another way to get users to download your evaluation version and play with some data. Google has been doing similar ‘training’ at conferences like SIGGRAPH and IEEE Visualization for the last couple of years now. This helps you get new users as well as allow for professionals attending the conference to learn something they might convey to their company when they go back to work, which could translate into acceptance and added sales for the company.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to let me know. Sorry there are no pretty visualizations in this post :)


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