Personal tools
You are here: Home 1997 Vol 29, No. 1, January 1997 AVI '96 - An International Workshop
Document Actions

AVI '96 - An International Workshop

Peter Pirolli

No earlier issue with same topic
Issue
Previous article
Article
SIGCHI Bulletin
Vol.29 No.1, January 1997
Next article
Article
No later issue with same topic
Issue


The Third International Workshop on Advanced Visual Interfaces, AVI '96, was held May 27--29 in a converted monastery, in the town of Gubbio, in Umbria, Italy. Monks chose these golden hills of central Italy to build their cloisters, so that they could escape the plains of darker times. These hills exude savory foods and hearty wines that deeply satisfy the body so the mind can be released in contemplation. In these hills, Italian monks mastered the tilling of body, mind, and knowledge that bore the fruit of the Renaissance, not the least of which was the fusion of the visual arts, science, and formalism. The setting for AVI '96 could not be more fitting.

The Advanced Visual Interfaces workshops brings together computer scientists who design and do research on visual interfaces. Theory, methods, and concrete applications are all represented, with a focus on information visualization, graphical communication, virtual reality, multimedia, visual languages, visual databases, adaptive systems, and, of course, the World Wide Web. Befitting its international aspirations, AVI '96 was held under the patronage of the Universita di Bari and the Universita di Roma "La Sapienza", was sponsored by the ACM SIGMultimedia and the Esprit IDOMENEUS, and held in cooperation with SIGCHI, and Esprit's FADIVA working group. Workshop proceedings are available from ACM Press.

The paper program consisted of a single track of 22 papers from industry and academia in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Chile. These were organized into sessions around seven topics, although the eclectic coverage of many works cut across several categories. A session on navigating within data contained papers on information visualization and navigation in information spaces and hypermedia. There were separate sessions on interfaces to databases and on interacting with the World Wide Web, although these subjects were present in many of the other sessions. A session on interface tools contained works on novel input, annotation, and visual programming techniques. The session on applications contained work on computer-supported collaborative work and virtual reality. The penultimate session on empowering the interface presented novel data visualization techniques, visual layout algorithms, and algorithm animation techniques. The final topic was on pictorial interfaces, which included querying and browsing techniques for image databases. A panel on the challenges ahead for multimedia interfaces was moderated by Isabel Cruz of Tufts University.

As a newcomer to AVI, I came away struck with an impression that many of the discussions and proceedings were infused with an aesthetic rooted in database research. This included a taste for formalism and for technical approaches to the design of interfaces, interaction, and visualization. Within this aesthetic, there was a marked concern for finding strong methods for the evaluation and design of visual interfaces, grounded in knowledge about human-computer interaction. There was, however, a striking absence (save for one paper) of user studies. Many attendees agreed with Ben Scheiderman's call for more empirical research on the impact of advanced visualization techniques on users.

The three invited talks at AVI '96 presented distinctive approaches to the formal framing of visualization and interaction. The extraction and separation of formal theory from practical application, especially in the visual arts, was a major achievement of the Renaissance in this region of Italy, as found, for instance, in Leon Battista Alberti's (1404--1472) treatises on painting and architecture. Such systematic formal theory was one of the main reasons that Renaissance practices spread so rapidly throughout Europe, merging and adjusting with local tastes. So, seeking underlying formal systems for the design of the modern visual architectures has successful precedents.

The first invited speaker, Stu Card, from Xerox PARC, presented an overview of information visualization techniques, many originating at PARC and some of the general human-computer interaction principles guiding their design. He also discussed Information Foraging Theory (on which we collaborate) as an example of an approach to the rational analysis of interaction from a psychological and ecological perspective. He also presented a 3D information workspace for interacting with the World Wide Web, developed at PARC, called the Web Forager. The second invited speaker, Alberto Mendelzon, from the University of Toronto, presented principles for the design of interactions over the World Wide Web. Mendelzon discussed principles of layout, abstraction, and interaction, focusing on visualizations of the graph structure of the World Wide Web. The third invitee, Alan Dix, pondered ways to extend his PIE formalism (a mapping of user actions onto their effects on a system) to deal with visually-based interactions. To do this, he took us on through some interesting considerations of non-visual interactions, including mathematics for the blind (a project he has worked on), and interaction by smell (one he has not worked on, but one he thought would be appropriate for the dogs in his family).

It is difficult to come up with rich enough superlatives to convey the sumptuous arrangements provided by our Italian AVI '96 hosts, Dr. Tiziana Catarci, Dr. Stefano Levialdi, and Dr. Giuseppe Santucci of Universita di Roma, "La Sapienza" and Dr. Maria Francesca Costabile of the Universita di Bari. It goes without saying that the Umbrian food and wine were delightful. The Hotel "Ai Cappuccini" had all the sinful luxuries shunned by its former inhabitants. The organizers provided ample time for enjoying the company of new-found colleagues, while sipping local vintages in the sun-drenched courtyards between sessions, or while strolling through the ancient olive trees on the hillside paths leading to the medieval parts of Gubbio. Ample time was also provided for the many system demonstrations.

The town itself provided the early workshop arrivals with its "Palio della Balestra" cross-bow competition between the archers of Gubbio and Borgo San Sepolcro. This "festa" dates to medieval times when the mercenaries of the free Commune of Gubbio and other Umbrian towns vied for positions on the armies of the larger city states. Archers and other performers, in traditional medieval costumes, entertained under the flags and banners decorating the town, followed by a historic procession under torchlight. Our AVI '96 hosts arranged for some of these entertainers to give an evening performance for the workshop. An afternoon and evening was set aside to tour through the rolling Umbrian countryside to visit Assisi. Several guides were contracted to provide small groups with a walking tour of the town and the history of its most famous inhabitants, Saint Francis and Saint Clare. This was followed by a magnificent gala banquet of abundant courses of traditional medieval dishes presented amidst recitals of traditional medieval music.

AVI '98 will be held in L'Aquila, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. This is a more rustic part of Italy, where the Apennine mountains reach their highest peak at the Gran Sasso. Judging by the past success of these workshops I look forward to the next.

About the Author

Peter Pirolli is a cognitive scientist at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. He received his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. As an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley he did research on computational cognitive models of learning to program, intelligent tutoring systems, models of generic design problem solving, and learning-to-learn strategies. His current interests include ecological and cognitive theories for understanding and designing complex information environments, theories of measurement of knolwedge content, access, and learning, and the development of new empricial methods for the study of information work.

Peter Pirolli
Xerox PARC
3333 Coyote Hill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA

pirolli@parc.xerox.com

No earlier issue with same topic
Issue
Previous article
Article
SIGCHI Bulletin
Vol.29 No.1, January 1997
Next article
Article
No later issue with same topic
Issue

 

Powered by Plone CMS, the Open Source Content Management System

This site conforms to the following standards: