Kevin Cheng  

Interactive Information Visualization ROCKS

July 2nd, 2004 by Kevin Cheng :: see related comic

Period.

11 Responses to “Interactive Information Visualization ROCKS”
Calybos wrote:

Umm, okay… can you expand on the concept a little for us newbies? What IS “interactive information visualization”–and why do I think it will resemble a video game more than a work tool?

behrk wrote:

3D again, oh my! I have enough trouble trying to get all my peaces of information in order in 2D. Not yet another dimension, please, no no oh no!

Ben wrote:

Kev, what IS “interactive information visualization”? Sounds like it could be something as simple as this site ok/cancel you have. Information that I visualize (in the form of my Friday weekly comic reading) and that I can interact with (via this feedback mech).

behrk, I think it’s interesting that you would consider an added dimension (ie. the third) in our interface something that will perhaps confuse us more.

I feel the opposite. I feel like the 2D interfaces that we have are the bottleneck, because they pose a problem: how do we provide a lot of informative data, and then LIMIT it to being shown in 2D only? A real estate listing with photos is fantastic. But what if you could do the ever-so-popular “virtual tour”?

I guess in a way, I already have a 3D concept on my desktop, even though I can only work with it in 2D. I have windows arranged “in front” and “behind” each other, but I can only view them in 2D, and I can’t for instance “sink a level” to show a set of windows one “layer” beyond the top.

Would be interesting to see how they would implement a 3D interface. More potential, but more potential pitfalls too.

Okay, I’m done rambling about things I know nothing about now. (Maybe I should be a politician.)

Tom Chi wrote:

Ben, it’s funny, but soon after asking what interactive info viz was, you ended up describing it exactly. In short, it’s efforts to create more complex visualization based on the interpretation of a complex data set… then make the whole thing interactive. For example, one might create an info viz. for your entire filesystem (or the entire internet!), then let the user “fly through” and/or manipulate the data.

Anyhow, this is a pretty interesting experiment (tho arguably not comical), since it’s helping us gauge somewhat unbiased audience opinion on this subject.

Rajio wrote:

Oh…….like in johnny menurmonic! (woah) or arguably, tron.

Arthur wrote:

I don’t know if info vis is quite all that it’s cracked up to be. There are certainly useful visualizations like www.smartmoney.com but there’s a tonne that’s really, really abstract. Looking at MIT media lab, there’s some really cool stuff which has very complicated and has mathematically beautiful algorithms for representing data in a graphical form, but from a human performance perspective, it’s mind bogglingly confusing. KC, if you do decide on a PhD at Berkeley, perhaps the study of children and video games will help dictate a direction for visualisation of information.

Matt wrote:

Tom Chi wrote:
In short, it’s efforts to create more complex visualization based on the interpretation of a complex data set… then make the whole thing interactive.

Hmm, I agree but disagree. You shouldn’t think of interactive infoviz as limited to complex monolithic visualizations, where you can maybe tweak a few parameters. The utility of such is usually limited, and most of your audience will consider it a toy rather than a useful tool. I’m thinking of the treemaps and hyperbolic trees of the world — pretty, but how useful are they really?

I believe true interactive infoviz presents the user with an infocentric interface, in which information is easily manipulable and transformable. The user should be able to not just see bars in a chart or dots on a map, but pick those bars and dots up and drop them into other visualizations. They should be able to highlight visual elements and see other visual representations of that same data light up in other visualizations.

I’m thinking of an information desktop rather than a blinky 4D time-space map. You can get a lot of mileage out of a few simple charts, maps, and network diagrams, if you provide the right kind of interface for manipulating them. Complex, tailored visualizations can be useful, but they need to allow the user the opportunity to drill-down on details and visualize them in a different context.

I just got back from Baghdad a few weeks ago. We’ve trained up the 1st Cavalry division on an environment similar to what I’ve described — it’s currently the principal C&C system for US forces in Baghdad, and we’re soon going to deploy it throughout Iraq. The difference that it makes is pretty amazing — when information flows like water between all of these different contexts, your users can make correlations that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to prove. There are blurbs about the system (called CPOF) in this TIME article and this WaPo article (scroll to the end).

Reed Hedges wrote:

Infovis Turbulence

From OK/Cancel (by way of UV): Comic Strip Kevin Cheng says it ROCKS No Way says Tom Chi Kevin visualizes the future a bit Tom muses further about its suckage Also, InfoVis.net is four years old now….

reed wrote:

Matt, that’s fascinating. Here is the ultimate dynamic/interactive infoviz/mapping app :)

Is there more info about the infoviz aspects of CPOF available somewhere?

Matt wrote:

There are some details
here
, at the website of my former company. You can check out screenshots of the workspace and a PDF brochure.

There used to be white papers on the site, but they seem to have been taken down in favor of more markety stuff. :(

Like I said, CPOF doesn’t do anything terribly revolutionary on the infovis side. Gantts, maps, and the occasional scatter are the norm. The major win from a design standpoint is an information- (and system-) architecture that encourages liquidity (so you can see the same thing several different ways). Thanks to that, we were able to very easily turn CPOF into a deeply collaborative system as well — I can flow information from other people’s visualizations into my own.

OK, so that this isn’t a total self-promotional post, I should turn 180 and say that I’ve been very impressed by the blinky stuff at GapMinder. I saw Anna Ronnlund give a great speech at Georgia Tech last spring. They do a good job of combining a fascinating dataset with quirky and innovative techniques.

Reed Hedges wrote:

Infovis Turbulence

From OK/Cancel (by way of UV): Comic Strip Kevin Cheng says it ROCKS No Way says Tom Chi Kevin visualizes the future a bit Tom muses further about its suckage Also, InfoVis.net is four years old now….


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?