Surface is the New Depth | Multiple coordinated views for cultural visualizations

Remember the interfaces for visual navigation of information from Minority Report, Quantum Of Solace, and many other spy / action movies? How about having your own to do quantitative cultural analysis (QCA)?

Existing cultural visualizations are typically single graphs. In designing our Cultural Analytics projects, we aim to go beyond such single representations to adopt widely common interface principles used today whenever people monitor a performance and control complex system/machine/process. The examples of such "human-machine systems" are vehicle interfaces, patient monitoring in a hospital, control room of an automated factory, information dashboards, financial news interfaces, or a "situational awareness" command and control system.

Barco i-command interface

AT&T control center

In each case, an interface consists from multiple displays that present different types of information about a system/process: graphs, charts, video, text, visualizations, etc. Given that culture can be also understood as a complex system/process, it would be logical to develop a similar interface design for studying and following cultural developments and flows.

Taking a clue from visual information systems used today in a variety of industries, we want to construct not only single visualizations but also suites of visualizations, graphs and maps which show different kinds of information next to each other - thus taking advantage of the high resolution display supported by the current graphics cards and graphics processors. (For instance, with an addition of the recently released graphics processor from NVIDEA, a standard PC can drive 8000x8000 display.) We believe that such suites of interactive visualizations are necessary if we want to really make sense of rapidly changing global cultural patterns and trends today.*

HIPerSpace display system developed at Calit2. Resolution: 35,640 by 8,000 pixels. Size: 31.8 feet wide x 7.5 feet tall (9.7m x 2.3m).

We are creating cultural visualizations which take advantage of HIPerSpace resolution.

While interfaces which use multiple displays and multiple media to present information about a system or a process have existed for decades, recently information visualization researchers started to explore a related concept of "multiple coordinated views.," This work is currently a rapidly growing area of information visualization. The examples include Infoscope and Improvise.

Our idea of "visualization suite" is closely connected to "multiple coordinated views" concept. However, since the existing systems which implement "multiple coordinated views" are not designed to deal with cultural arifacts or to be used for cultural research, much work lies ahead.