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HCI, InfoVis

Response to [Casual Information…] by Pousman et al.

Card et al. coined visualization as the use of computer-supported, interactive, visual representation of data to amplify cognition. The premise of this paper is “Information visualization has often focused on providing deep insight for expert user populations and on techniques for amplifying cognition through complicated interactive visual models.” Counter to this concept, this paper proposed a new subdomain called casual infovis which “complements the focus on analytic tasks and expert use”. A reflection to this description would be: casual infovis is not necessarily for specific analytic tasks or oriented to expert users.”

This paper is NOT providing a taxonomy within infovis. Instead, they adopted the prototype theory, which basically states that whether a belongs to category A is less of a binary relationship but more of a matter of degree.

The paper presents three kinds of “Infovis at edges”

* Ambient infovis: “systems that sit in peripheral locations and provide abstract depictions of data…”

* Social infovis: visualizing social information such as web bookmarking, news, public space, etc.

* Artistic infovis: “… works of data-driven art”

Given these reviews, the authors summarize four characteristics of casual infovis:

* User population – “includes a wide spectrum of users from experts to novices”

* Usage Patttern – “momentary and repeatable …, or contemplative …”

* Data type – “… personally important”

* Insight – not necessarily analytical.

And the definition of casual infovis would be: “… the use of computer mediated tools to depict personally meaningful information in visual ways that support everyday users in both everyday work and non-work situations.

Then the paper spends some words discussing multi-facet insights of casual infovis. Starting from analytic insight, which belongs more to the core inforvis, is about amplifying viewers’ cognition. Awareness insight relates more to ambient visualization where maintaining awareness is emphasized. Social insight comes from social visualization where users need to interpret the visualization by keeping the social context in mind. Reflective insight is commonly conveyed in artistic visualization where defamiliarization is used to help users get to re-recognize mundane and everyday.

Finally, when it comes to evaluating casual infovis, it seems to be more difficult than evaluating core inforvis partly because of the taskless nature and longitude effects of casual infovis.

“CasualInfovis systems share many of the properties of more traditional systems, but with an increased focus on

activities that are less task driven,

data sets that are personally meaningful,

and built for a wider set of audiences.”

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About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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