Reading 2: Overview

January 18, 2010

in Assignments

due before Tuesday, January 26

The goal of this reading is to give you an overview of what visualization is about. I’d like you to read at least one of the book chapters listed and (if I am able to get the scan in time), a chapter from Tufte who comes at it from the design perspective.

While these readings are focused on infovis, it does give a nice overview of the general topic:

  • Tamara Munzner. Visualization. Chapter 27 of Peter Shirley, Steven Marschner et al. Fundamentals of Computer Graphics, 3e. AK. Peters, 2009.

This is a chapter from the 559 textbook (if you took CS559 this year and have the new edition of the book). Otherwise, Tamara has a PDF of the chapter on her page here. Or, I have a copy in the course protected directory here. (see the posting about the protected directory).

An additional/alternative reading is the first chapter from the “original” infovis book. In some sense, this is a better chapter, but its also a little dated. There is a scan of it in the course protected directory here.

  • Card, Mackinlay, Schneiderman. Information Visualization. Chapter 1 of Card, Mackinlay, Schneiderman, Readings in Information Visualization: Using Vision to Think. Morgan Kaufman (Academic Press), 1999.

I’d also like you to read the first chapter of Tufte’s book series:

  • Edward Tufte. Graphical Excellence. Chapter 1 of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. 2nd edition (any edition is OK). Graphics Press, 2001.

A scan of this chapter is in the protected directory here.

There is an assignment that is due the same day, independent of this reading (here).

Please leave a comment on which ones you’ve read, and any thoughts you have. If you read both of the InfoVis ones, I’m curious which one you prefer. If you read an infovis one and Tufte, you might comment on how different the “Visualization Scientist” perspective is from Tufte’s “Designer” perspective.

Since the reading is posted late, I understand that not everyone will get to the Tufte reading. If you don’t read it before class, please read it afterwards.

This assignment is due before Tuesday, January 26th. (we’ll check sometime Tuesday morning before class, and read them to help organize discussion on that day).

The purpose of this assignment is to 1) introduce ourselves to each other and 2) test out some of the mechanics for the class.

Knowing about the people in the class (this isn’t just the instructor knowing, but knowing each other) is particularly important for this class since we want to use the diversity of the backgrounds in the class to our advantage – we all come with different perspectives, problems to solve, and ideas.

So, please make a posting to this web (using the “new post” feature) in the “Student Posts” category with your name as the title. Add “Biography” as a tag. (the use of tags as a way of organizing assignment handins is an experiment here). In the post please:

  1. Say a bit about yourself. At the least, what department you are in, where you are in your career (e.g. 3rd year grad student or dissertator), what kinds of things you do for your “main work” (or if you’re a new student, what your interests are).
  2. Say a bit about your interest in visualization. Describe where you see yourself in terms of the “3 perspectives” we discussed in class (Domain Scientist, Designer, Vis Scientist). Do you have any thoughts as to what you expect to get out of the class?
  3. Say a little bit about your skill set. What are your programming and design skills? (this will be useful in trying to help adjust assignments and projects to fit people’s abilities).
  4. Optionally, add a picture (I think you should be able to), and a link to your personal web page.

You can say more if you like.


  1. If you don’t want your post to be public (that is, that the whole world can read it), you can make it readable by subscribers only. I’m pretty sure we can do this, but since I’m new to workpress, this is something I’ll have to work out.
  2. You should have registered for the web site for assignment 1, and the TA should have promoted your account to “Contributor” so that you can make posts. If you can’t make posts, contact the TA.
  3. As a contributor, you can create a posting, but the TA or instructor (the moderators) must approve it before it gets posted. We’ll try to check to make sure its tagged and categoried correctly, but try to get that correct.

due before Thursday, January 21st.

This first assignment has three goals, which make it a little different than the typical reading:

  1. To read and learn from a particularly good paper – not just because the system they describe is good, but because its a nice account of the entire vis processs.
  2. To get a handle on how the diversity of the class can cope with reading Computer Science papers. For many of you in other disciplines this might be the first technical CS paper you’ve read.
  3. To test out some of the class mechanics.

The reading for this assignment is the paper:

  • Meyer, M.   Munzner, T.  and Pfister, H. MizBee: A Multiscale Synteny Browser. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 15 (6) 2009. Proceedings Infovis 2009. doi:10.1109/TVCG.2009.167

You can get the paper from the authors website here. There is other information (including a video and actually downloading the program to play with it) at the website. But for this assignment, it is particularly important to read the paper. Part of the reason for this assignment is that I think this is a particularly illustrative paper.

Here’s the assignment:

  1. Read the paper and be prepared to discuss it in class on Thursday, January 21.
  2. Register for this website (you’ll just have “subscriber status” – but that will enable you to comment on postings. we’ll upgrade your membership manually once you are subscribed).
  3. Post a comment to this assignment post with some thoughts about the paper. You can also begin a dialog with others (by replying to their comments, etc.), but each person should post their thoughts.

Send and email to both the instructor and TA listing the things that you didn’t understand in the paper. To a computer scientist (who knows a little bit about genetics), this paper is easy in terms of the technical content. But I am trying to gauge how it is for others to read papers like this. I am looking for background that you don’t think you have, terms that you can’t understand (if you had to look something up), concepts that you felt like you needed before reading this paper, … If the paper was totally understandable to you, please say that. (everyone needs to send this email).

Please do this (all 3 parts) before Thursday, January 21st. I am going to look at what people wrote on Thursday morning and use it to plan class, so make sure that your comment and email has been done.