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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2009

Volume 15 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Interactive Visual Information Collections and Activity 2009


Frank Shipman
Department of Computer Science
Texas A&M University

Red Line


The 2009 Symposium on Interactive Visual Information Collections and Activity (IVICA) took place in Austin this year. This symposium aims to bring together researchers and practitioners involving software for working with information visually. This includes the entire cluster of activities related to composing, nurturing, collecting, maintaining, and making associations within information; the environments and related tools in which these activities take place; and the theory behind these activities and environments.

This was the second IVICA symposium, following on a successful meeting in 2006 in College Station, Texas. The symposium emerged out of and broadens the scope from the Workshops on Spatial Hypertext, held in conjunction with ACM Hypertext Conferences for many years. Information about both Symposia, including the papers presented, can be found at <>.

This year's IVICA began with an invited talk by Mark Bernstein of Eastgate Systems. His talk, "A Story, an Image and a Link Walked into a Bar" discussed the challenges for storytelling in visual or link-based media. This included examples of how subtle expression in visual forms provides the needed nuance for the author, for example, how small changes in posture or expression change a work of art from being a still life to an instant in an implied story. He called on spatial hypertext system designers to provide facilities for such expression. Bernstein's talk also explored how traditional stretchtext constrains both plot and story, due to its limitation on links such that they replace only a segment of a text. Four link primitives, recursus, timeshift, renewal, and annotation, are described as ways of varying plot in hypertexts.

The remainder of IVICA included presentation of a series of seven long papers and two short papers on topics ranging from automatically constructed visualizations to studies of human-authored visualizations. Sofia Athenikos presented her work on automatically generating visualizations of the relationships between philosophers based on the content of Wikipedia. There are different visualizations generated for queries of a single philosopher, queries concerning two philosophers, and all philosopher queries. An alternative form of automatically constructed content is explored by Tomohiro Oda and his colleague in their use of semi-automatically generated blogs as a means to persuade physical navigation and tourism. Using ID card readers, people could register as having visited different locations that would then appear in their blog. The default blog entry could be updated to provide more details or an assessment of the location.

Novel applications of spatial hypertext systems were well represented, with Konstantinos Meintanis reporting on a study of the use of spatial hypertext to organize music collections and Neal Audenaert and colleagues describing a new system for digital humanities scholars to analyze visual forms. Meintanis' study looked at user expression in and reactions to a general purpose spatial hypertext system. An interesting result is that users express things visually that they would not express through metadata, such as relations based on personal memories associated with music. These results are being used for the design of a new system specifically for working with music collections. Audenaert's system is designed with the understanding of the need for easy manipulation and access to fine details in scanned images of old texts and images, something prior spatial hypertexts have lacked.

Automatic visualization in a spatial hypertext was the theme of Soonil Bae's work on supporting document triage and Haowei Hsieh's work on automatically creating initial two-way visual mappings from structured data sets (e.g., database tables) to editable visualizations and vice versa. Bae's work uses layered objects to remove the conflict between human and system-authored visualizations. The user can manipulate the visual characteristics of one layer of each object while the system has control of the visual properties of the other layer. Hsieh's system queries users about the task they are about to perform with the structured data in order to generate an initial visualization specific to the task that can then be modified by the user.

One of the themes in Bernstein's invited talk was how the order of presentation of activity changes plot. Uncovering and presenting the temporal structure of activity was the topic of both DoHyoung Kim and Yoshinari Shirai. Kim's work focuses on making the history of the authoring process support collaborative work through visualizations and by grouping system-level event information into human activities. Shirai's work emphasizes the identification of subcomponents of expression for reuse, also by clustering low-level user activity data.

Luis Francisco-Revilla called for a meeting of the minds (well, really system builders) to come up with a shared representation so documents authored in a specific spatial hypertext system could be viewed in other systems. This generated substantial discussion and will hopefully result in an upcoming working group meeting on this topic during the next year.

There was general agreement that IVICA should occur again next year. It remains to be determined whether it will be co-located with a conference like JCDL or Hypertext or be a stand-alone event (as it was in 2006.) Watch for the next call for papers/panels/demos/posters for IVICA 2010. If you have any questions about these events, contact Frank Shipman at <>.

Copyright © 2009 Frank Shipman

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