Design and research
As a visiting Fulbright scholar at USC in Los Angeles, I am going to explore the potential of interactive and animated information visualization.
It is widely acknowledged that visual representation of information can be highly effective in presenting complex data. Graphical presentation of information enables users to compare data and discover trends, patterns and differences that otherwise would be inaccessible or hard to recognize. However, there has not been much research on interactive data visualization from a design perspective. These are some of the questions I am interested in:
- How may designers approach and work with complex data?
- How may designers understand and handle the tension between data/exploration and narrative/story in dynamic infoviz?
- How can we understand these visualizations as not just ‘neutral presentations of data’, but as meaningful and persuasive design objects?
- How may data visualization move beyond flat, two-dimensional screen displays?
So, what am I going to do?
The project is fairly open ended in terms of deliverables. The plan is to carry out several design experiments with real data, and document and analyze the result. For inspiration, I find it interesting to look to science fiction movies, as they often present novel interfaces for data visualization (even though many of them would not work well as tools for data exploration). What would happen if we used AR or holograms for data visualization?
An additional aim is to enhance my programming skills, which will be necessary for working directly with the material at hand (interaction with data), and for creating working prototypes. So I suppose I will spend quite some time at Codeacademy. Further, I will use gigamapping as a technique for understanding and working with complex data.
I am currently in the process of discussing opportunities for collaborative projects at USC. In addition, I have already an agreement with Difi (The Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment) to work with data from their large Citizen Survey (Innbyggerundersøkelsen). More on that later.
I am also open for other cases, so feel free to contact me or suggest data that you think should be presented to the world in a visual and engaging form!
Better late than never, right? It’s about time to resuscitate this blog and give the interweb an update on my whereabouts!
I have recently arrived in Los Angeles, where I will be a visiting Fulbright scholar for 6 months. I will stay at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, doing research on dynamic and interactive data visualization. The research visit is made possible by a research grant from Fulbright Norway. In addition, I will work part time for my Norwegian employer, Halogen.
Why Los Angeles and USC?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that California is the place to be when it comes to digital innovation as well as moving images, and the sweet spot is to be found at USC. The School of Cinematic Arts is considered the top film school in the US. However, they are not only making films there; the new Interactive Media Building is filled with state of the art technology, such as large multi-touch screens, Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets, and the Oblong g-speak system (you know, the one Tom Cruise uses in Minority Report).
Media Arts + Practice program
…devoted to exploring the potentials of scholarly expression, visual storytelling, data visualization and social media, including business, education, medicine, urban planning and law, areas in which the ability to use media to communicate effectively is increasingly essential.
This is spot on to my own interests, and more specifically to the project I will work on, exploring dynamic datavisualization (more on that later). In adition, Virginia Kuhn was one of the first to produce a media-rich, born-digital PhD dissertation in the US. So we also share an interest in exploring new forms of scholarly
writing composition and publishing.
I feel extremely privileged to be able to be in such an exciting place! More on the project later.
Last week I presented my paper on (E)motional design at Out of Control, the 8th International Design & Emotion Conference in London. With the paper, I argue that movement and emotion are highly interconnected, and that movement has the power to affect, engage and persuade us deeply.
In order to analyse and design kinetic interfaces (interfaces characterized by movement) we need to consider two things at the same time: how movement helps us to carry out actions, and how movement creates meaning (=double mediation). The paper includes an analysis of how movement is used on the screen interface of the Apple iPad, as well as a design experiment in which I used stop motion animation to explore how movement can be used in a mobile app.
Ready for some academic arguments about visual movement? Have a look at the paper: (E)motional design: double mediation in kinetic interfaces.
PS 1: the paper is based on the trial lecture I held for my PhD defence in 2010.
PS 2: download the magazine app I use as an example of a kinetic interface: Katachi.
The public defence of my PhD thesis took place at AHO, December 22. The thesis, entitled Navimation: a sociocultural exploration of kinetic interface design is now available online, through AHO’s open access archive ADORA.
The thesis consists of a metareflection (kappe) and three publications. All publications have gone through peer-review and have been published before. The metareflection situates and extends these publications by providing more theoretical background and introducing new concepts and models.
Download the documents below:
|Eikenes, J.O.(2010). Navimation: a sociocultural exploration of kinetic interface design. Doctoral thesis, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Institute of Design, Oslo.|
|Eikenes, J.O. and A. Morrison (2010). Navimation: Exploring time, space & motion in the design of screen-based interfaces. International Journal of Design, 4(1), 1-16.
Also available from The International Journal of Design..
|Eikenes, J. O. (2009). Social navimation: Engaging interfaces in social media. Paper presented at Engaging Artifacts. The 3rd Nordic design research conference (NORDES). 31 August-1 September.
Also available from NORDES.
|Eikenes, J.O.(2010). Connecting motional form to interface actions in web browsing: Investigating through motion sketching. FORMakademisk, 3(1), 80-100.|
In order to make my research more accessible I have created a video that shows a number of kinetic interfaces. Kinetic interfaces are here understood as screen-based interfaces that are characterized by movement.
In addition to the interface examples, a number of descriptive and analytical terms are presented. These terms have been developed through analysis of kinetic interfaces in academic publications. The kinetic interfaces presented in the video are:
The Apple OSX login box
The Iconist #1 (iPad)
Disney Movies (iPad)
Music: ‘Rieth’ from Gesamtlaufzeit by Marko Fürstenberg. (Used with permission.)
Yesterday I presented my paper on Social Navimation at the NORDES conference Engaging Artifacts. I used the online presentation tool Prezi to create the visual presentation, which includes videos of interfaces I have designed. The videos are also available at the Design page.
How to see the presentation: use the buttons in the lower right corner. The second button opens the presentation in full screen, while you push the button to the right to go further in the presentation.
Social Navimation is the phenomenon of engaging with social media through a navimational interface, or more specifically, to intertwine navigation with motion in
social media applications. In this paper I analyse a set of design examples of how social navimation can be realised.
I got a lot of positive comments after the presentation, especially on the visual presentation. Overall I am happy with the Prezi tool, even if I have discovered some bugs. It took me quite some time to make the presentation, but now I know the tool and will definitely use it for future presentations.
Are you compelled by the rapid development of mobile devices and their graphically sophisticated screens?
Have you noticed the increasing employment of visual motion in screen-based interfaces?
Are you interested in the possibilities and challenges for designing such interfaces?
Jørn Knutsen and I will arrange a full day workshop at the NORDES conference Engaging Artifacts in Oslo, August 30 – September 1, 2009. We will introduce participants to theoretical concepts and design techniques for prototyping screen-based interfaces that make use of visual movement. Participants will work hands-on in groups, exploring techniques for developing simple prototypes. The workshop ends with a general discussion in which we address theoretical as well as practical issues.
Full workshop description (PDF).
Conference program. NB: early registration until August 1.
UPDATE: The workshop was cancelled.
I will present a full peer-reviewed paper on the Nordic Design Research conference NORDES’09: Engaging Artefacts, which will take place in Oslo in the end of August this year. The paper is called ‘Social Navimation: Engaging Interfaces in Social Media’, and explores how visually dynamic interfaces can enhance social media applications. This potential is investigated through experimental design production, followed by a textual analysis of the resulting interface prototypes. The term ‘social navimation’ is introduced and applied in the analysis, in which I investigate how semiotic resources from navimation are connected to features of social media. Hopefully, the paper will be of interest for both theory and practice of interface and interaction design, and new media studies in general.
UPDATE: The conference program and all papers are now available here. Download the full paper: Social Navimation: Engaging Interfaces in Social Media (PDF).
UPDATE 2: See the presentation.
Some time ago I wrote a blogpost where I suggested that design (or more specifically the production of artefacts other than the traditional academic paper) can be used for intentionally communicating theoretical issues. I believe we to a certain degree can embed, present and visualise theory in artefacts by making use of specific resources for meaning-making, just like we do when we design. Of course, this raises questions of interpretation: to what degree is the “reader” able to understand what is to be communicated through the artefact? This is a huge theoretical question that I am not going to go into here. However, I will provide an example that I find interesting in terms of how designer skills and design production can help communicate a theoretical argument.
The example is from a master project in industrial design at Konstfack by Karin Ehrnberger, called ‘Materializing gender’. I saw this presented on the design conference NORDES in Stockholm in 2007, and was impressed by how the theoretical discussion was interwoven with a specific design project. The paper is unfortunately not available online, but a short description can be found here.
The aim of the paper was to investigate how products are ‘gender coded’, and bring attention to the lack of understanding of this phenomenon. This was partly done theoretically by drawing on gender studies, but also through experimental design production. Ehrnberger designed a hand mixer using the aesthetics of a drill, and a drill using the aesthetics of a hand mixer (images used with permission from the designer).
Even though these artifacts do not convey a unambiguous argument in themselves, they are to my mind highly successful in visualising and bringing attention to how gender is semiotically “encoded” in physical products. These artefacts do not reduce the need for theory and analysis, rather they demonstrate the importance for a thorough and theoretical inquiry. In addition, these products have the ability to evoke reactions from both researchers, designers, and users, and thereby increase the potential for knowledge dispersion.
In my research I intend to do something similar, that is to experiment with form of academic communication. Rather than keeping the design production and the academic text separate, I want to integrate them in a coherent whole. To put it simple: I will discuss and analyse navimation through a navimational interface. I have already done a small experiment and plan to take this further in some way or another. This is not easy to do in regards to both design and research, but I think there is a great potential for innovation in academic communication here.
The 8 pages long paper ‘Design-oriented Human-Computer Interaction‘ by Daniel Fallman takes on quite a comprehensive task when it addresses what design ‘is’, how design is related to HCI, and what the relation between design and research might be in HCI.
Even if Fallman takes on an impossible task for such a short paper, he offers very interesting concepts and arguments. The paper is written from the perspective of HCI, not design as such. However, he argues that HCI has emerged as a design-oriented field. Many of the arguments and concepts presented should be relevant for design research in general.
3 accounts on what design ‘is’
Fallman presents three accounts from design theory on what design ‘is’. He calls these the conservative, the romantic, and the pragmatic.
- The conservative account sees design as a rational process that aims to convert an undesired situation into a desirable one, by going through rational and structured methodological steps. This account assumes that there is a ‘problem’ to be solved. Design is thought of as a scientific or engineering endeavour, and the focus is on normative design methods and generic design principles. For this account, references are given to H. Simon, C. Alexander, J. Löwgren and E. Stolterman.
- The romantic account gives prominence to the role of the designer, which is seen as a mastermind or creative genius. Here, imagination and creativity is seen as key abilities rather than abstract reasoning and rational problem solving. Rather then a focus on the process, the focus is on values, taste, quality and aesthetics. Art is the role model here, rather then science. References are given to R. Coyne, E. Stolterman, and P. Louridas
- The pragmatic account holds that design always is carried out in a specific situation, where the designers iteratively interpret the effects of their designs on the situation on hand. Design can therefore be seen as a hermeneutic process. This view draws on pragmatism and may see knowing-in-action as a specific and important kind of knowledge. Since every design situation is different, the ability to deal with different situations is more important than theories and methodology for guidance. Reference is given to D. Schön and D. Ihde.
I do not currently have the necessary overview to evaluate these categories, though I wonder if they may be a bit simplified and exaggerated. I do not think many designers (my self included) would position themselves in either one of these categories. In practice, it seems to me that design may sometimes include rational problem solving, sometimes ‘mysterious’ creativity, and most often the specificity of the situation at hand. The emphasis will vary from field to field, from designer to designer, and from project to project. However, such categories provide us with means for discussing what design ‘is’, which is essential in a theoretical inquiry. This understanding may further influence the way design education is conducted, and how the role of design and designers is understood at a general level.
Sketching as design thinking
To get closer to what design ‘is’, Fallman considers the role of sketching as an archetypical design activity. He argues that designers’ thinking is mediated by sketches and prototypes. The materials ‘talk back’ to the designer in an ongoing dialogue between the designer and the sketch.
…design involves the designer in a necessary dialogue with the materials of the design situation, from which the design problem and its solution are worked out simultaneously, as a closely coupled pair. (page 231)
In this unfolding process problem setting and problem solving (Schön) are seen as intertwined activities, in a search for a coherent, well-balanced whole.
[Design] … must not simply be seen either as a question of problem-solving, as an art-form, or as a bustle with reality: it is on the contrary an unfolding activity which demands deep involvement from the designer. ” (page 231-232)
Rather than seeing design as a hybrid discipline between art and science, design should be considered as a tradition guiding action and thought, which spans across many disciplines.
Design-oriented Research vs. Research-oriented Design
Fallman proposes a new way to distinguish research activities in HCI that involve design production.
- Design-oriented Research has knowledge of some sort as the main contribution. This is the conduct of academic researchers, and should be conducted when the knowledge would not be attainable if design production was not a vital part of the research process. Here, the designed artefact is considered a means to an end, for example for exploring possibilities outside a current paradigm.
- Research-oriented Design has production of new artefacts as its main motivation, not the production of new knowledge. Nevertheless, this production may relate to research in many ways. I suppose what is normally considered development would fit within this category.
Fallman argues that Design-oriented Research should include problem setting as an important part, while Research-oriented Design most often has problem solving as its main component.
Relating this to my own work, it is clear that doing a PhD entails scholarly and academic research where the aim is to produce new theoretical knowledge. The production of artifacts is subordinate. However, I think the production of artefacts can play an important role not only in informing theory, but also in embedding, presenting and visualising theory. In a social-cultural view on artefacts, the artefact does not in itself have a determined meaning. Nontheless, an artefact may play an important role in the dispersion of knowledge, as long as the theoretical argument is made clear and apparent.
Navimation is a concept denoting the combination of navigation and visual motion in screen-based interfaces. About navimation.
- Fulbright report: six months at the School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles
- The VizBox Experiments
- TopoBox: exploring a tangible dataviz platform
- Norway in 3D part I: from DEM to 3D surface
- Using visualization for understanding survey data
- Story kicking big data
- Fulbright project: Dynamic Information Visualization
- Visiting Fulbright scholar at USC in Los Angeles
- (E)motional design paper at DANDE2012
- 3,5 års arbeid på 6 minutt og 40 sekund
- PhD thesis online
- New video: Kinetic Interface Design
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