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Visual Overviews for Cultural Heritage: Interactive Exploration for Scholars in the Humanities, Arts, and Beyond

05/20/2010 6:00 PM Morss Hall Walker Memorial
Ben Shneiderman, University of Maryland

Description: A focus on designing technologies that allow the "visualization of things not visible" has been at the center of Ben Shneiderman's work over the past two decades. He advocates the discovery of temporal patterns, relationships and clusters via an empowering user experience which enables discovery at a customizable pace and depth.

Shneiderman makes a clear distinction between high"resolution presentation (ala Edward Tufte) and discovery, which he defines as "the dynamics of interaction." Noting that different patterns will be interesting to different people, he suggests that the capacity to quickly test out a viewpoint, to ask a large number of questions in a short amount of timeis an "enriching gift."

Shneiderman cites several different projects which utilize various methodologies of user exploration and empowerment, principles applicable to the scientific and technical world, as well as the humanities and arts. The best known of these is Spotfire, a commercial application of visual data mining and information visualization. (User control _ via dynamic query sliders, for example " directs the rapid updating of a display containing color" and size"coded points.)

He describes other methodologies _ including treemaps (space"constrained visualizations of hierarchical structures), TimeSearcher (a visual analysis tool for time series data), FeatureLens (interactive visualization of text patterns) and Social Action (for social network data, now incorporated into NodeXL) _ as capable of giving "answers to questions you didn't know you had."

Questions from the audience address the challenges of visualizing uncertainty and the notion of a "user" as a participant whose contributions and engagement actually reshape the very conditions of the system. Shneiderman emphasizes a desire to not only empower users but to alert them to potential hazards of interpretation and make them more cautious users, readers and/or participants.

Additionally, Shneiderman encourages an information visualization approach through which selection strategies allow "treasures to rise to the surface" from vast databases. Noting ongoing constraints of time and budget, he emphasizes the processes of categorization and prioritization, and supports courage of ownership for decisions made.

About the Speaker(s): A pioneer of information visualization, human"computer interaction, and user interface design, Ben Shneiderman'swork has focused on database design, human factors in computer systems and information design, and technology"mediated social participation.

Concepts of information design associated with him include dynamic queries and starfield display (research that led to the development of Spotfire, the user"driven analytical tool), HyperTIES, the treemap concept, the Lifelines project, PatternFinder, TimeSearcher, the Hierarchical Clustering Explorer, and universal usability, among many others.

His book, Designing the User Interface: Strategies of Effective Human"Computer Interaction, has appeared in numerous editions and had a profound impact as an educational and professional text.

Founding Director (1983"2000) of the Human"Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCiL) at the University of Maryland, Shneiderman is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has received the ACM CHI (Computer Human Interaction) Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned his PHD at SUNY at Stony Brook in 1973.

Professor, Computer Science and Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, University of Maryland >http://www.cs.umd.edu/~ben/

Host(s): School of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences, HyperStudio

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