Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?

Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?

The fundamental role of data visualization is to express information in a form more palatable to human perception than rows and columns of raw values. We are visual creatures, and visualization is a necessary tool for our brains to acquire, explore, analyze, and reason with data. Douglas Engelbart’s recent passing has me reflecting on why we do what we do, and whether or not we are fulfilling Engelbart’s goal of “augmenting human intellect.” On one hand, visualization is a technology perfectly suited to support this goal. Yet, too often, we see graphics whose inaccuracy and oversimplification is fundamentally misleading, effectively dumbing us down — the opposite of what we need. This is not just a gripe about poorly designed visuals; this is an opportunity to reevaluate the values that inform our work. How can we reframe and refocus our work on the worthy goals of visionaries like Engelbart and Vannevar Bush? With some adjustments, visualization can play a less trivial, more fundamental role within the larger domains of technology and society.

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Scott Murray

October 23, 2013
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  1. Scott Murray Assistant Professor, Design University of San Francisco Primary

    Identity —Full Name Logos University of San Francisco’s primary visual identification uses the university’s full name spelled out. This logo should be used as the first identification where appropriate in all external communications, whether print, web, or electronic materials, and merchandising items. Note: Use the tagline logo with discretion as to context. Do not use the tagline logo if “Change the world from here” has an unintended associated meaning, for instance on a student comedy night poster or a bookstore promotion, in which case use the full name logo without tagline, see next page. The Full Name Logo with Tagline 2-Lines is the recommended identification. Use this version whenever possible. Alternates: Use the Full Name Logo with Tagline 1-Line for applications where space parameters dictates an extreme horizontal format. The Full Name Centered Logo with Tagline is advisable for vertical or square formats. All Full Name Logos are available as 3-color logo— USF Green, USF Yellow, and USF Gray; 2-color logo—USF Green and USF Yellow; or one-color logo—black and white. FULL NAME LOGO WITH TAGLINE 1-LINE FOR EXTREME HORIZONTAL SPACE RESTRICTIONS RECOMMENDED: FULL NAME LOGO WITH TAGLINE 2-LINES PRIMARY LOGO, VARIATIONS: FULL NAME LOGO WITH TAGLINE CENTERED FOR SQUARE FORMAT SPACE RESTRICTIONS Whatever Happened to “Augmenting Human Intellect”?
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  5. Douglas Engelbart 1925 – 2013

  6. AFIPS CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS VOLUME 33 PART ONE 1968 FALL JOINT

    COMPUTER CONFERENCE THE THOMPSON BOOK COMPANY National Press Building Washington, D.C. 2 0 0 0 4 December 9-11, 1968 San Francisco, California
  7. Brooks Hall, Civic Center, San Francisco

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  10. Vannevar Bush 1890 – 1974

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  13. Charles Babbage 1791 – 1871

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  19. 608-283-xxxx 608-264-xxxx 202-375-xxxx 202-501-xxxx 415-642-xxxx 608-652-xxxx 202-213-xxxx 347-202-xxxx

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  23. 608-283-xxxx 123 608-264-xxxx 202-501-xxxx 415-642-xxxx 202-213-xxxx Babbage Bush Engelbart Calculation

    Memory Collaboration Visualization Pattern discovery and reasoning
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  26. by setting the values of the sliders and buttons in

    the control panel to the right. The query result is determined by ANDing all sliders and buttons. husband will be working. downtown, near the capitol, by dragging the ‘B’. Figure 2 shows the interface after Dr. Jones has dragged the ‘A’ and ‘B’ indicators to her desired locations (the indicators are more visible in Figure 4). Dynamic HomeFinder Williamson and Schneiderman, 1992
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  30. Map of APRANET in December 1969 from ARPANET Completion Report.

    Bolt, Beranek and Newman. Burlington, MA, January 4, 1978. Photo of Douglas Engelbart from SRI, http://www.sri.com/ newsroom/press-releases/douglas-engelbart-passed-away- july-2-2013 AFIPS CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS VOLUME 33 PART ONE 1968 FALL JOINT COMPUTER CONFERENCE THE THOMPSON BOOK COMPANY National Press Building Washington, D.C. 2 0 0 0 4 December 9-11, 1968 San Francisco, California AFIPS Conference Proceedings, 1968, http://portalparts.acm.org/ 1480000/1476589/fm/frontmatter.pdf#page=5pagemode=thumbs “San Francisco's Brooks Hall all set for the 1968 Fall Joint Computer Conference,” 1968, provided by the Doug Engelbart Institute, http:// www.dougengelbart.org/history/pix.html#FJCC-1968 Still images from video recording of Engelbart’s presentation “A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect,” 1968, provided by the Doug Engelbart Institute, http://www.dougengelbart.org/firsts/ dougs-1968-demo.html Video recording of Engelbart’s presentation “A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect,” 1968, provided by the Doug Engelbart Institute, http://www.dougengelbart.org/firsts/dougs-1968- demo.html Photo of Vannevar Bush, originally from Pieces of the Action (New York, William Morrow, 1970, p. 161) by Vannevar Bush. Reproduced and photographed from A Computer Perspective (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1990 ed., p. 113) by the office of Charles and Ray Eames. Photo originally from “As We May Think” (Life, September 1945, p. 112–124) by Vannevar Bush. Reproduced and photographed from The New Media Reader (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2003, p. 113), Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds. Photo originally from “As We May Think” (Life, September 1945, p. 112–124) by Vannevar Bush. Reproduced and photographed from The New Media Reader (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2003, p. 113), Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, eds. Photo of Charles Babbage, 1860, photographer unknown, http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Babbage_-_1860.jpg Photo of the Babbage Difference Engine, 2009, Allan J. Cronin, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Difference_engine.JPG “Instagram and Other Social Media Apps,” 2012, Jason A. Howie, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonahowie/7910370882/sizes/l/ “A Google Glass Wearer,” 2013, Loic Le Meur, http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Google_Glass_wearer.jpg “Google Glass Detail,” 2012, Antonio Zugaldia, http:// commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_Glass_detail.jpg “Stephen Balaban wearing Google Glass on July 16th, 2013,” 2013, Stephen Balaban, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/ File:Stephen_Balaban_wearing_Google_Glass_on_July_16th, 2013.png 608-283-xxxx 123 608-264-xxxx 202-375-xxxx 202-501-xxxx 415-642-xxxx 608-652-xxxx 202-213-xxxx 347-202-xxxx Still image from Relationship Visualizer by Scott Murray, http:// alignedleft.com/work/relationship-visualizer Dynamic Queries 3 The dynamic queries interface (Figure 2) provides a visualization of both the query formulation and corresponding results. This application was built using the C programming language. A map of the District of Columbia area is displayed on the left. The homes that fulfill the criteria set by the user’s current query are shown as yellow dots on the map. Users perform queries, using the mouse, by setting the values of the sliders and buttons in the control panel to the right. The query result is determined by ANDing all sliders and buttons. The dynamic homefinder interface is best explained through an example. Take a hypothetical situation where a new professor, Dr. Jones, has just been hired by the Umversity of Maryland. She might encounter this tool in a touchscreen kiosk at a real-estate office or at the student union. She selects the location where she will be working by dragging the ‘A’ on the map. Next. she selects where her husband will be working. downtown, near the capitol, by dragging the ‘B’. Figure 2 shows the interface after Dr. Jones has dragged the ‘A’ and ‘B’ indicators to her desired locations (the indicators are more visible in Figure 4). 340 “The Dynamic HomeFinder: Evaluating dynamic queries in a real- estate information exploration system.” Christopher Williamson and Ben Shneiderman. ACM, 1992. Visual Thinking by Rudolf Arnheim, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1969. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert, Basic Books, New York, 1980. Photo of Douglas Engelbart from SRI, http://www.sri.com/ newsroom/press-releases/douglas-engelbart-passed-away- july-2-2013