Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Overview

Millions of people are on-line today and the number is rapidly growing - yet this virtual crowd is often invisible. In this course we will examine ways of visualizing people, their activities and their interactions. Students will study the cognitive and cultural basis for social visualization through readings drawn from sociology, psychology and interface design and they will explore new ways of depicting virtual crowds and mapping electronic spaces through a series of design exercises.

What does a virtual crowd look like? How can you see the rhythms in a mediated conversation? What style of portraiture emerges in the era of data-banks and affect sensors?

The goal of social visualization is to create intuitive depictions of social information for social purposes. There are many challenges and questions in this endeavor, including the analytic (what are the relevant data?),the interpretive (what do the patterns mean?) and the artistic (how can we accurately represent the content of the data and also evoke appropriate intuitive responses?)

This course investigates these ideas through a series of readings, critiques and design studies. Students will analyze the rhythms of online conversations, the patterns found in email archives, and the characteristic activities of individuals; they will depict them using lines, colors, sounds, movement and interactions. We will study the perceptual basis of various visualization solutions, looking indepth at problems such as how to depict subjective information, the privacy issues raised by making hidden social patterns visible, and methods for using visualizations as the basis for graphical and immersive environments.

Weekly assignments will include readings in cognitive science and social psychology, critiques of existing visualizations, and a progressive series of design sketches. There will be a final project and paper.