AbstractsComputer Science

Semantic figurative metaphors in information visualization

by Pedro Miguel Cruz

Institution: Universidade de Coimbra
Year: 2016
Keywords: visual metaphors; information visualization; figurative visualization; visualization design; casual visualization; metáforas visuais; visualização de informação; visualização figurativa; design de visualização; visualização casual
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2063999
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10316/31166


Visual metaphors are an intrinsic part of visualization. They structure information in order to provide an interpretation framework. Semantic figurative metaphors are an approach to information visualization that carries the weight of authorial intent. This approach is suitable for application in the context of casual visualizations, aimed at contemplative and momentary usages. Implementing semantic figurative metaphors encompasses two steps: the adaption of the structural model chosen for a visualization, and the introduction of figurative visual cues. These steps add non-data aspects to the visualizations, introducing inaccuracies that are used for figurative representations of data. These non-data aspects are not gratuitous – they have a semantic meaning for the designer’s interpretation of the data. Here, this approach is applied across three visualizations, ranging from topics such as the decline of major empires, traffic in cities, and political-corporate relations in Portugal. The objective is to show the exploration of visual metaphors with the distortion of visualization models to the point of deliberately inserting inaccuracies in data representation, which can be used to emotionally connect with an audience while being clear and faithful to data. The Empires’ Decline visualization uses a system of colliding soft bodies to display the growth and disintegration of four empires that vary in size through time. The system was designed to carry metaphors of disintegration, competition, ephemerality and fragility. These visualizations received wide adoption and engagement. The system portrays the empires’ areas with an error that is negligible. The city traffic work contributes with a new model for implementing edge-based cartograms. These cartograms are used to depict traffic conditions based on the simulation of a mesh of interconnected springs, using a time-distance metaphor. The edges representing the road network of Lisbon and London expand when velocities are low and contract when velocities are high. The model was tested for several parameterizations in order to obtain results with the best errors. Two additional visualizations were developed and applied on top of the deformed traffic map: the visualization of trajectories that shows vehicles’ trails, colored according to their velocities, and a figurative visualization that turns the city into a living organism made of pulsing blood vessels. The Ecosystem of Corporate Politicians shows the relations among Portuguese politicians and companies in an interactive way and adopts a satirical tone. Here, politicians are living organisms that frenetically jump between companies. Data for this visualization was collected and made publicly available. Users can explore companies, catch politicians, and build their own discourses from the data. The visualization reached a large audience and users were engaged by the added metaphorical cues. Finally, these works contribute to a general reflection on the usage of semantic figurative metaphors: designers should make it… Advisors/Committee Members: Machado, Fernando (advisor).