Colin Ware – Visual Thinking Algorithms

Colin Ware (University of New Hampshire) presents as part of the UBC Department of Computer Science’s Distinguished Lecture Series, March 7, 2013.

In the creative process of drawing a sketch mental additions are first tested internally then externalized to the paper; the information is distributed, some is held on the paper and some is held as a mental image. Today, most serious cognitive work is done with computer tools, not paper which makes it even more interactive and distributed, some of the action occurring in the brain, and some in the computer. In this talk I will introduce visual thinking algorithms as a way of describing the dialogue between humans and computers involved in visual thinking. These algorithms are described using simple pseudo-code and are intended to support design decisions regarding which visualization methods to use. Key components of visual thinking algorithms are visual queries and epistemic actions. Visual queries are aspects of a problem that have been transformed so progress towards a solution can be accomplished by means of a visual pattern search. Visual queries are constrained by visual pattern perception, as well as visual working memory capacity. Epistemic actions are activities, like eye movements, or mouse selections designed to gain more information. Examples of visual thinking will be given, including design sketching, generalized fisheye views and reasoning with a social network diagram.