We open our third volume of PJIM articles under the rubric of mapping writ large. Every article deals, in some manner, with knowledge extraction and the power and informativeness of visual context. The first article invokes a mapping exercise that exploits publicly-published content (Twitter, Flickr) that reveals social networks, activity, and trends via the paradigm of topography. This is followed by how gameplay is analyzed through the mapping of player data utilizing meta-interfaces: interfaces that analyze usability respecting multiple categories of play. Our third article considers the mapping of consumer feedback through “qualitative synthesis”; again, getting the big-picture through visually organizing methods. We conclude with content-aspects of scale and media with an in-depth review of how large surfaces, paper or otherwise, provide informational context that small screen devices cannot emulate; the treatise should be required reading for every interface designer.
Brian Willison, Publisher, and William Bevington, Editor-in-Chief
Parsons Journal for Information Mapping
by Christian Marc Schmidt, MFA & Liangjie Xia, MPS
by Kim Erwin, MDes
by Ben Medler, PhD Student & Brian Magerko, PhD
by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, PhD
Data art, data visualization, information design, interactive, mapping, social networks
Cities are comprised of complex social networks. In addition to the physical architecture these networks define our experience of the urban environment. Invisible Cities, a project named after the novel by Italo Calvino, aims to provide insight into the composition of urban social networks by surfacing data from online services, geographically mapped, in order to identify the areas of high and low activity. The visualization thus reveals emerging social themes.
Invisible Cities is a multivariate data visualization presented as a three-dimensional spatial environment. It displays individual Twitter status updates and Flickr photos on a geo-registered surface reflecting aggregate activity over time. As data records are accrued, the surface transforms into hills and valleys representing areas with high and low densities of data. Data points are connected in chronological order by paths representing themes extracted from status updates and image metadata.
The project’s three-dimensional representation enables the simultaneous macro- and micro-reading of information through its perspectival compression within the field of view. The foreground displays detailed information at a local level, while the surrounding context offers the comparison with other data. The outcome is an immersive space the viewer can explore, creating immediate parallels that may respond to or contradict the physical architecture of the city. It also allows for the real-time analysis of overlapping themes present within localized social networks.
Christian Marc Schmidt is a German/American designer and media artist. From an interest in working with data he has adopted a parametric, process-oriented approach in his work, which is concerned with evidence, disclosure and the materiality of information. His work has received international recognition, including from the D&AD in London, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Communication Arts, and the IDSA, and he has taken part in exhibitions and screenings nationwide and overseas.
Liangjie Xia is a media artist and programmer presently based in New York City. His work explores alternative forms of communication through innovative applications of technology. His experiments vary from interactive, data-visualization mobile applications to physical installations. He loves and contributes to open source projects, and hacks with whatever is handy. Liangjie recently received Master of Professional Studies degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.
Consumer maps, data visualization, design process, design tools, frameworks, insight communication, mapping, synthesis
It is now common practice to conclude the research or analysis phase of a design project with a “framework” to capture and describe the stable, structural aspects of the research findings. By definition, frameworks tend towards abstraction and simplification, thereby helping the core design team distill their insights. The downside of a framework is that abstraction and simplification make the work less useful and communicative to anyone who has not experienced the richness and full context of the data. In the conventional design process, this poses little problem, as the people who develop the tools also use the tools. In today’s more open design and innovation processes that engage multiple stakeholders, the framework’s abstraction is often confusing and can create a barrier to diffusion and implementation of ideas.
This paper explores an alternative approach to qualitative synthesis that uses the structural and cognitive affordances of maps to organize and display consumer insights while preserving critical detail. For convenience we call these Consumer Maps. By their nature, maps present key features in context, allowing the reader to orient to the territory, and deliver enough density to support macro and micro readings, while permitting the user to be self-directed in the process. In this paper, we explore Consumer Maps that share all of these attributes, and evaluate their potential as a tool for design and communication.
Geographic maps have predictable organizing structures—latitude, longitude, North, South, East, West—that create familiarity and allow end users to process the content. What might be the equivalent for Consumer Maps? In this paper, we consider four candidate structures— zones, elevations, topographies, and blueprints—that design practitioners can use to develop Consumer Maps as powerful, visual story platforms that speak to diverse stakeholders.
Kim Erwin is a visiting associate professor at the IIT Institute of Design since 2009, having been a member of the school’s adjunct faculty since 2006. In her fifteen years of practice, Kim has specialized in the communication and application of strategic user research, first with innovation planning firm Doblin and then as an independent consultant. Her research and teaching focus on the most information-intensive aspects of design practice—in particular the conversion of user research and secondary research into stories and frameworks that designers and business leaders can use as a basis for action.
Game analytics, game design, game development, game metrics, gameplay, information visualization, play, player, playful visualization, visual analytics
Tracking player data in video games has increased in recent years. Data such as click-throughstreams and event logs are currently being captured within most major games, while other researchers are prototyping new ways of capturing data from a player’s physical body movement or internal brainwaves. The wealth of data produced is beneficial for a wide variety of audiences within the game community: designers, programmers, marketers, executives and players. Visualizing this data is an obvious choice for connecting these audiences to their data by augmenting their ability to cognitively digest the enormous amount of data available to them.
While the principles of information visualization can inform the design of game-related visual analytic systems, such as monitoring player performance over time, video games offer a unique perspective on analytics: analytics that are playful. In this paper we explore the properties that define a playful visualization, one that supports and promotes play. The authors draw on their work building visual game analytic systems for game designers and players, reinforcing their experience with a large number of examples of new visual systems being deployed to analyze game data by both game companies and players. With such a wide variety of game audiences it becomes necessary to explore the avenues between analysis and play in order to provide game audiences with visual experiences that promote gameplay as much as analytics.
Ben Medler is a third year PhD student at Georgia Tech. His dissertation work focuses on game analytics and how it is used to connect players to their gameplay. This work has included building game analytic tools for game designers at Electronic Arts (EA) to research player behavior.
Dr. Brian Magerko is the head of the Adaptive Digital Media (ADAM) Lab at Georgia Tech. His research explores artificial intelligence and cognitive modeling approaches to story management, synthetic characters, and logical representations of story for interactive narratives.
Collaboration, digital media, futures, futurists, scenarios, situated knowledge, visualization, World Game
My subject is the relationship between space and media. I focus on the role space and media play in supporting collaborative work and the opportunities that emerging technologies present to reshape collaborativeintensive endeavors for the space/media relationship. We normally treat spaces and media as different things, but our interaction with such communicative media as newspapers, paintings, books, and maps has an important embodied, physical dimension to it.
To understand these space and media interactions I examine how large-scale media, such as wall-sized maps and floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, have a role in supporting collaboration. I have considered three examples of paper spaces: Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, emergency tabletop exercises, and expert workshops conducted by futurists. I note that these schematic visualizations invite participation, annotation, and reinterpretation by users as opposed to passive consumption. I also highlight the importance that physically navigating paper spaces supports the communication of what Sandy Pentland calls “honest signals,” rapid negotiation, and thus the generation of common knowledge. Finally, I show how in the near-future we will be able to design digital tools that better support collaboration. The falling cost of large-scale displays, including OLEDs (Organic LEDs), e-paper, and large LED displays, suggest that the day will soon arrive when relationships between interface design and interior design, as well as computer architecture and traditional architecture, overlap and merge. Our growing familiarity with tools such as smartphones, iPads, and haptic interfaces all suggest that we will soon be able to create electronic spaces that preserve the affordances of physical media while adding flexibility to digital media. As a consequence, it will be possible to create large-scale digital media—not paper spaces, but electronic spaces—that are physically engaging, support rich social interactions and tacit knowledge, and can handle a truly three-dimensional vision of collaboration.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is an historian and futurist of science. He is the founder of Future2, a consulting company specializing in technology forecasting and scenarios, and an Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School at Oxford University