Monday, September 12, 2011

Reaction: Attention and Visual Memory in Visualization and Computer Graphics

This article was an enjoyable read. The authors brought to light several sample situations that clearly explain how attention to visualizations varies with different factors. In one of the sections, the authors mention that the data in some visualizations is not stored in long term memory since the visualization is meant to be novel. Incidentally, I found that this statement holds true with one of the change blindness examples. I have seen one of the comparison images in the past but still needed to take several glances until I spotted the difference between the two.

Change blindness was one of the factors that stood out to me the most in this article. It is a complex factor in itself such that some visualization elements, such as luminance, give viewers a more difficult time in change detection. This section helps readers note some issues with attention outside of the viewer's field of view and helps pin-point what to avoid when developing a visualization. Mainly, keep all critical information inside the viewer's scope.

The factors discussed near the end of the publication provide readers and designers with several small but practical pieces of advice. I thought it was interesting that they mention aesthetics and engagement in relation to the ability to persuade viewers into lingering on different areas of a visualization. These factors make me think of a user as a customer and a visualization as an advertisement.

Finally, the authors advise designers to avoid forcing users to remember details for a set of old and new data. Instead, present both sets of data in such a way that the user can quickly reference either one. This advice brought Florence Nightingale's diagram to mind since it is a good example of displaying two sets of data.