From academia, with interest

This past week involved a couple of interesting brushes with academia for a couple of data animators from the Atheon Analytics team; Guy was at Cambridge University's Institute for Manufacturing ("IfM") on Tuesday, and he and Chris were guests of the Interaction Design Centre ("IDC") at Middlesex University on Thursday.

The Cambridge IfM hosted an open-audience talk from Stephen Few on the subject of Visual Business Analytics. Stephen is a well-respected author, consultant and commentator on the subject of Visual Analytics and gave an interesting talk spanning a wide range of subjects. In a one-hour presentation he spanned human visual perception, examples of data visualization and 'dashboard' design principles; ground covered well by his published books, but nevertheless interesting to see it presented in person and understand some of the nuances that he applies.

At the end of the presentation Stephen headed an informal question and answer session, giving the audience - primarily post-graduate researchers - a chance to quiz him on his views on subjects such as the use of colour, the distraction caused by "visual fluff" (his phrase!) of the role of interactivity in effective visual analysis.

Stephen presents in a compelling manner; his examples of how the human visual perception system introduces bias were very interesting and highlight the need to understand the basic rules of effective information presentation. It was good to talk to Stephen after the presentation and explore the role of interactivity in visual analysis; this is one of our [Atheon Analytics] primary areas of interest, and swapping stories with Stephen was very useful.
— Guy Cuthbert, Managing Director

Later in the week, on Thursday, Guy and Chris joined Professor William Wong and Dr Chris Rooney at the Interaction Design Centre of Middlesex University. Atheon Analytics had been invited to visit William and Chris following participation in VAW2010 a few weeks earlier; Middlesex University is the central co-ordinator for UKVAC.

During a half-day session, Prof Wong and Dr Rooney presented on a wide range of current research projects, spanning areas such as sense-making, situational awareness, cognitive task analysis and visual analytics. Some of the output from recent research projects was demonstrated, including:

  • 3D-in-2D interface research and prototypes
  • nvisique - an Interactive Visualization Search and Query Environment
  • The use of a 'powerwall' for physical interaction with massive displays
Guy Cuthbert