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design : elastic presentation
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Elastic Presentation
The art, science and design of data visualisation
by Sheelagh Carpendale

Our digital information spaces are expanding in size and scope. Simultaneously, there are rapid advances happening in available computing power and memory. However, the common sizes of our computational display spaces have only minimally increased — or, in some cases (such as hand held devices), actually decreased. Making effective use of available display space has been a fundamental issue in user interface design ever since we started using video display terminals as one of our primary computer interfaces. This is sometimes referred to as the screen real estate problem.

Instead of concentrating on specific applications, and exploiting their underlying information structure to obtain reasonable displays, I have examined the display problem independent of the application. In pursuing this approach, it has been useful to consider representation and presentation as distinct. Representation is the act of creating an image that corresponds to the information itself: for example, drawing a graph. Presentation is the act of displaying this image: emphasising and organising areas of interest. For example, spatial information about a city may be represented as a map. But this map could be presented in a variety of ways: one’s route to work could be magnified to reveal street names, for instance. In my work, I have focused on the presentation part of this problem.

My research into the presentation problem has led to the development of a framework that describes an Elastic Presentation Space. In this framework, presentation variations (or, the adjustments and reorganisations of information) are elastic. That is, given a new presentation configuration, it is always possible to revert to a previous visual organisation. This approach uses three-dimensional manipulation and perspective projection to achieve its presentation variations.

This kind of elastic presentation work describes existing methods, identifies new ones, and provides options for combining different presentation strategies. This in turn allows designers of new information visualizations to choose combinations of presentation methods that best suit the information they are working with, and the tasks they need to accomplish.

Sheelagh Carpendale has a broad background as a practitioner and teacher in the Arts, and a PhD in Computer Science from Simon Fraser University. She is presently an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the University of Calgary, where her research interests include information visualization, human-computer interaction, and graph drawing. The above text is an adaptation of the abstract of her PhD Thesis, A Framework for Elastic Presentation Space (Simon Fraser University, 1999).

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