One of the most important things that happened during the Industrial Revolution was the invention of machines that enhanced the physical capabilities of human beings. Whereas previously we needed to use our limbs to manipulate our environment and perform tasks, machines extended and enhanced our physical capabilities and transformed the nature of the physical tasks that were performed. They allow us to do much more, in a more efficient and speedy manner. Now, we live in the Information Age. In this age, the ability to produce knowledge and reason with information are crucial. We now need tools that extend and enhance our mental capabilities to perform data-intensive activities. Scientists, analysts, decision makers, doctors, learners, and other knowledge workers are constantly engaged in performing data-dependent activities. The par excellence machine to support knowledge workers is the computer.
My research is broadly concerned with interactive technologies and environments that support how people work with data/information. I am particularly interested in studying interactive visual tools (IVTs) that support the execution of information-based, data-intensive cognitive activities.
Example of IVTs include:
· Health and medical informatics tools
· Visual analytics tools
· Information visualization tools
· Genome analysis tools
· Cognitive, learning, and knowledge technologies
· Drug analysis tools
· Decision support tools
· Library and research collection tools
· Knowledge mapping tools
· Digital cognitive/mind games
· Financial analysis tools
· Mathematical visualization tools
· Social network visualizations
· Geovisualization tools
· Crime analysis tools
Examples of cognitive activities that people perform include:
· Exploring large bodies of research documents
· Learning about scientific phenomena
· Making sense of global health data
· Navigating mathematical structures
· Reasoning about trends and patterns in data
· Interpreting molecular cytogenetic findings
· Diagnosing complex diseases
· Communicating knowledge-based stories
· Studying causes of natural disasters
· Monitoring climate change patterns
· Solving scientific problems
· Analyzing financial markets
· Triaging a large set of documents
My research synthesizes models and concepts from such areas as: computer science; information science; design; human-computer interaction; visualization; cognition, learning, and motivation sciences; general systems theory; and game studies.
Over the years I have worked to develop a systematic, coherent body of knowledge that guides the conceptualization, analysis, design, and evaluation of different components of IVTs. My research involves:
· Use of relevant theories to derive appropriate conceptual frameworks
· Design and implementation of IVTs and techniques using these theories and frameworks, and
· Empirical evaluation and validation of frameworks, tools, and techniques.
To design computational tools, I use a human-centered approach with a particular focus on how to best support human cognitive needs and activities. In most cases, due to the complexity of the tasks involved, the volume of data, the variety of sources, and numerous other factors, computational tools and humans need to form joint, coordinated cognitive systems. This means that interaction and collaboration between humans and computers leads to the completion of overall activities, where information processing is divided between them and they both share the load of executing different tasks in these activities.
My research is concerned with the dynamics of such human-computer systems, specifically with respect to the following:
· Human-data interaction
· Interactive cognition
· Visual reasoning
· Interaction and interactivity design
· Data and information visualization
· Information presentation and design
· Data analytics
· Visual interface design
· Task and activity analysis and design
Questions that my research explores include:
· How do humans perform complex cognitive activities with interactive visual tools?
· How should relevant data and information be visually represented (i.e., 'visualized') to best support the performance of tasks and activities?
· What are the factors that contribute to a tight coupling and effective coordination of the human-computer cognitive system?
· What interactions should be made available to best support human tasks and activities with visual data?
· What are the factors that affect the quality of interaction in such systems?
· How should tasks be divided between humans and tools?
· How should IVTs be designed and evaluated?
All of these questions are approached from a whole-systems perspective—in which the unit of analysis is the human-computer cognitive system—rather than focusing on humans or computers in isolation.
I am the director of the Insight Lab at Western University. For more about my research and publications and that of my students, please visit insight.uwo.ca.