Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Role of Interaction in Information Visualization

In Toward a Deeper Understanding of the Role of Interaction in Information Visualization by Ji Soo Yi, Youn ah Kang, John T. Stasko and Julie A. Jacko, the authors seek to initiate defining a science of interaction by trying to identify the fundamental ways that interaction is used in Infovis systems and the benefits it provides to them (and to users).

My notes:

Information visualization (Infovis) systems, at their core, appear to have two main components, representation and interaction, in a symbiotic relationship. We view interaction techniques in Infovis as the features that provide users with the ability to directly or indirectly manipulate and interpret representations.

After conducting an extensive review of Infovis systems and their interactive capabilities, we propose seven general categories of interaction techniques widely used in Infovis:

  • SELECT: mark something as interesting.
    Select interaction techniques provide users with the ability to mark a data item(s) of interest to keep track of it. By making items of interest visually distinctive, users can easily keep track of them even in a large data set and/or with changes in representations.
  • EXPLORE: show me something else.
    Explore interaction techniques enable users to examine a different subset of data cases.
  • RECONFIGURE: show me a different arrangement.
    Reconfigure interaction techniques provide users with different perspectives onto the data set by changing the spatial arrangement of representations (the way data items are arranged or the alignment of data items).
  • ENCODE: show me a different representation.
    Encode techniques enable users to alter the fundamental visual representation of the data including visual appearance (e.g., color, size, and shape) of each data element. In Infovis systems, visual elements serve an important role not only because they can affect pre-attentive cognition but also because they are directly related to how users understand relationships and distributions of the data items. By changing a type of representation, users expect to uncover new aspects of relationship.
  • ABSTRACT / ELABORATE: show me more or less detail.
    Abstract/Elaborate interaction techniques provide users with the ability to adjust the level of abstraction of a data representation. These types of interactions allow users to alter the representation from an overview down to details of individual data cases and often many levels in-between.
  • FILTER: show me something conditionally.
    Filter interaction techniques enable users to change the set of data items being presented based on some specific conditions. In this type of interaction, users specify a range or condition, so that only data items meeting those criteria are presented. Data items outside of the range or not satisfying the condition are hidden from the display or shown differently, but the actual data usually remain unchanged so that whenever users reset the criteria, the hidden or differently shown data items can be recovered. The user is not changing perspective on the data, just specifying conditions on which data are shown.
  • CONNECT: show me related items.
    Connect refers to interaction techniques that are used to (1) highlight associations and relationships between data items that are already represented and (2) show hidden data items that are relevant to a specified item.
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