Out of sight

Yes, it’s been a long time since I posted, but I have a good excuse. I recently completed and defended my dissertation. So I have been writing about the visual forest, just not in blog format.  Quite the opposite. But now that the final document has been reviewed, revised and accepted (submitted on Leap Day), I hope to be contributing posts more regularly. More pictures, more frequently.

For those that are curious, I received my PhD in Information Science and Technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. My dissertation is entitled “Image-Enabled Discourse: Investigating the Creation of Visual Information as Communicative Practice.” The abstract is below and pdf of the full, final version is here.

ABSTRACT. Anyone who has clarified a thought or prompted a response during a conversation by drawing a picture has exploited the potential of image making as an interactive tool for conveying information. Images are increasingly ubiquitous in daily communication, in large part due to advances in visually enabled information and communication technologies (ICT), such as information visualization applications, image retrieval systems and visually enabled collaborative work tools. Human abilities to use images to communicate are however far more sophisticated and nuanced than these technologies currently support. In order to learn more about the practice of image making as a specialized form of information and communication behavior, this study examined face-to-face conversations involving the creation of ad hoc visualizations (i.e., “napkin drawings”). A model of image-enabled discourse is introduced, which positions image making as a specialized form of communicative practice. Multimodal analysis of video-recorded conversations focused on identifying image-enabled communicative activities in terms of interactional sociolinguistic concepts of conversational involvement and coordination, specifically framing, footing and stance. The study shows that when drawing occurs in the context of an ongoing dialogue, the activity of visual representation performs key communicative tasks. Visualization is a form of social interaction that contributes to the maintenance of conversational involvement in ways that are not often evident in the image artifact.  For example, drawing enables us to coordinate with each other, to introduce alternative perspectives into a conversation and even to temporarily suspend the primary thread of a discussion in order to explore a tangential thought. The study compares attributes of the image artifact with those of the activity of image making, described as a series of contrasting affordances. Visual information in complex systems is generally represented and managed based on the affordances of the artifact, neglecting to account for all that is communicated through the situated action of creating. These finding have heuristic and best-practice implications for a range of areas related to the design and evaluation of virtual collaboration environments, visual information extraction and retrieval systems, and data visualization tools.

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