Elegant Figures

2011 GRC Visualization in Science and Education

July 18th, 2011 by Robert Simmon

Although I got back from the 2011 GRC Visualization in Science and Education conference Friday night, my brain still hurts (in a good way). Thanks to Liz and Ghislain for their superb job as conference chairs. To me, the theme of this year’s conference was salience (more precisely, perceptual salience)–the ability of our visual system to focus on one thing at a time, to the near exclusion of everything else.

Hold one hand out in front of you, with the thumb up, and focus on the thumbnail. This is the limit of your locus of attention: about one degree. Away from that point everything else in your visual field fades into the background. For data visualization this is both an advantage (you can draw people to the important parts of an image) and a drawback (it’s impossible to pay attention to two things at once, and it’s easy to have your focus shifted unintentionally).

I’ll have some examples, and interesting bits from the presentations and discussion, in the next few days and weeks.

3 Responses to “2011 GRC Visualization in Science and Education”

  1. Looking forward to the examples and interesting bits.

    I’ve been meaning to respond to your request in a previous post for ideas to write about. It’s still on my to do list. Will get back to you…

  2. Joe Witte says:

    RE: “It’s impossible to pay attention to two things at once.”
    There is some interesting research from Richard Mayer’s work in the multimedia cognitive learning field that is helpful. The impossibility of paying attention to two things at once is part of the cognitive load theory.
    It helps explain why the standard ppt is so boring… we can sight-read the text on the screen much faster than the presenter can read the copy so our input from our eyes quickly outruns the audio input from the speaker. Quetion: If the “thumb” is the narrow point of say “full attention” then what does that say for where any explanatory text should be placed? How effective are legends?

  3. Mark Kramer says:

    Mark from WeatherMark

    Hope to be able to use these forthcoming examples to show students that they need to think as well as teachers as a physical instructional example.