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IEEE Infovis 2008 overview – 1

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I am attending the IEEE VisWeek 2008 in Columbus, OH right now. Its a wonderful conference, the first part of which is focusing on information visualization. Here are some of my thoughts about some of the wonderful talks that I’ve heard so far. I wont be posting as regularly as Robert Kosara‘s almost live miniblog on http://eagereyes.org/ or Carlos Scheidegger‘s blog at http://carlosscheidegger.wordpress.com/ but I will definitely keep posting my thoughts on the papers and other events. 

Rolling the Dice: Multidimensional Visual Exploration using Scatterplot Matrix Navigation
Niklas Elmqvist, Pierre Dragicevic, Jean-Daniel Fekete 
An interesting way to explorer multidimensional data with scatterplots. The video of the system highlights the strengths of scatterplots. They use the metaphor of rolling a dice, since as they use 
animation as they transform from one visualization to the next. I wonder whether at some 
point the animation and transitions distract the user from the exploration process. In their paper,
they say that “User evaluation is difficult for such broad tasks as visual exploration” but they plan
to evaluate their techniques further. 

A Framework of Interaction Costs in Information Visualization
Heidi Lam
A great and much needed paper discussing the costs of incorporating interaction into information
visualization. The work was inspired by these wonderful books by D. A. Norman. 

D.A. Norman. The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday/Currency, 1990.
D.A. Norman. Things that Make Us Smart. Basic Books, 1993.
D.A. Norman. The Design of Future Things. Basic Books, 2007.

I have read the first two and shall definitely read the next book now. I would strongly encourage students to read these books as they serve as a good resource for thinking about visualization design. Heidi has adapted Norman’s Seven Stages of Action into the analysis. She found that one needs to take into account interaction costs when evaluating any kind of visualization. I applaud such effort and look forward to more research taking interaction into account during evaluation. 

EMDialog: Bringing Information Visualization into the Museum
Uta Hinrichs, Holly Schmidt, Sheelagh Carpendale
An extremely interesting talk about an information visualization installation being placed in a museum.
The presentation was very unique and clearly stated their experiences with the installation. The
positive and, more importantly, negative feedback they received from the visitors was clearly specified, which was great.  

Graphical Histories for Visualization: Supporting Analysis, Communication, and Evaluation
Jeffrey Heer, Jock D. Mackinlay, Chris Stolte, Maneesh Agrawala
A great talk by Jeff who discussed the implementation of seemingly simple ‘histories’ feature
for Tableau. The idea of ‘undo-as delete’ as well as ‘the undo operation is performed 12 times more 
than redo operations” was an interesting observation which seems believable to me.

Who Votes for What? A Visual Query Language for Opinion Data
Geoffrey M. Draper, Richard F. Riesenfeld
Interesting talk and demo. The paper is getting a lot of press lately [here and here].
It might be interesting to explore non-radial layouts and explore the benefits of different layouts.
The discussion about color design that followed the talk will definitely benefit their system. I look forward to some visualizations from the US 2008 presidential elections using their system. 

Visgets: Coordinated Visualizations for Web-based Information Exploration and Discovery
Marian Dörk, Sheelagh Carpendale, Christopher Collins, Carey Williamson
This was an interesting talk about coordinating visualizations for exploration of real-world data. 
Particularly since in the last post on visualization in politics, I mentioned Sheelagh Carpendale’s work for visualizing data for exploration and discovery and yesterday I had a chance to attend the exact same talk. 

Vispedia: Interactive Visual Exploration of Wikipedia Data via Search-Based Integration
Bryan Chan, Leslie Wu, Justin Talbot, Mike Cammarano, Pat Hanrahan
This talk was great at exploring knowledge within wikipedia. The aim was to obtain a database
from DBPedia (http://dbpedia.org/About) into their system and allow users to make fast 
geographic visualizations. Bryan demonstrated how the capitals of the countries in the world
could be visualized and then how the visualization could be tweaked with parameters such as population of the city and so on. You can play around with their tools at 
http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/vispedia/ or http://vispedia.stanford.edu/

The Word Tree, an Interactive Visual Concordance
Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda B. Viégas
Martin gave an excellent talk on the use of Word Trees. The visualization technique can be accessed at IBM Many Eyes [http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/page/Word_Tree.html].
He showed some excellent examples that provide insight into word relationships in various literary
texts. In particular I enjoyed the “I am married but..” example which was based on a collection
of advertisements. 

Stacked Graphs – Geometry & Aesthetics
Lee Byron, Martin Wattenberg
Ben schneiderman – vertical vs horizontal stacked graphs – vertical works better according to him. He 
used listening history first which was done horizontally. Labelling worked better with the vertical 
graph as there was more real estate around it. NYtimes was only 2 yrs whereas online version was 21 yrs. Some relevant links: 
Web-based version of the NYTimes piece: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/02/23/movies/20080223_REVENUE_GRAPHIC.html
http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/page/Stack_Graph_for_Categories.html
http://www.leebyron.com/else/streamgraph/
Visualizing the box office: http://www.leebyron.com/what/boxoffice/
Visualizing listening preferences on Last.fm: http://www.leebyron.com/what/lastfm/

Cerebral: Visualizing Multiple Experimental Conditions on a Graph with Biological Context
Aaron Barsky, Tamara Munzner, Jennifer Gardy, Robert Kincaid
Presenting results and innovations with visualization researchers working with biologists. Early 
on he said something that is very true, since I’ve work with application domain experts. 
He basically said that collaborators like any kind of visualizations and think you are awesome
for having created that. You on the other hand know that they are just previously published research
which might not get you a ‘best paper’ award at a conference :)  He presented some real issues about the divide between the scientists and visualization researchers. 

The Shaping of Information by Visual Metaphors
Caroline Ziemkiewicz, Robert Kosara
Evaluating the visualization metaphors and their effect on our understanding of visualizations. The idea and discussions leading up to the results were very convincing. I was a bit dissapointed to see that in the results, they found that people were able to perform well even with incompatible metaphors. I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that non-visualization users (i mean researchers mostly) are not very familiar with the visualization techniques such as treemaps. I keenly look forward
to the future work from the authors. 

Geometry-Based Edge Clustering for Graph Visualization
WeiWei Cui, Hong Zhou, Huamin Qu, Pak Chung Wong, Xiaoming Li
I liked the idea of the paper but I do agree with some of the questions that were asked after the talk about how hard is it to interact with the graph, how easy it was to implement the technique etc. I strongly encourage WeiWei to upload some of the code for us to try out their techniques.

More thoughts about the terrific infovis keynote and other sessions coming soon!!

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