The soft copy of my thesis is languishing on a zip disk in my loft. It is in an ancient copy of word for the Macintosh. It has lost all its pagination. As a physio excercise for my hands I have decided to retype my thesis here so that at last I can share it with my colleagues! It is fairly short as my examiner Thomas Green put it I wrote just enough (-: I think most of the concepts it explores are still very relevent today 13 years later.
Exploiting Interactivity in Graphical Problems Solving: From Visual Cues to Insight
Lisa Anne Tweedie
Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England, SW7 2BT
Submitted for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 1997
Part of the value of today’s powerful graphical computers is the ability to help us in our daily work by providing external representations of our problems and thoughts. One situation in which such interactive external representations are valuable is in the exploration of data to acquire insight, an activity popularly known as “visualisation”. Mathematicians have used static graphs of data for this purpose for centuries but now, through computer use, we can design interactive graphical tools to support our problem solving. Such tools allow many solutions to be tested out very quickly so that alternatives can be assessed.
It is difficult to take a conventional approach to studying such novel technology, since it is not yet widely used. Instead research needs to focus on the possibilities of such technology. One way to do this is for HCI researchers to create novel tools themselves based on knowledge in the field. This thesis presents a number of novel interactive external representations designed by the candidate. The main application of these tools was to explore statistical models of tolearance assignement in engineering. However they can generalised to support problem solving in many other domains.
Another way to influence the design of these novel tools is to provide designers with new ways of thinking about their work. The latter half of this thesis describes abstractions that provide a number of concepts for talking about different interactive external representations. The aim of such abstractions is to stimulate both novel designs and the iterative improvement of current designs.
In summary this thesis aims to develop pragmatic knowledge that can contribute to the design of useful and usable interactive external representations. This is important because if such tools are designed well they will improve the quality of reasoning in many problem solving situations.
Chapter1: Exploiting Interactivity
Chapter2: Graphical Problem Solving
Chapter 3: Research Methodology
Part2: Exploring the Space of the Possible
Chapter 4: The Attribute Explorer
Chapter 5: Precalculation
Chapter 6: The Influence Explorer
Chapter 7: The Prosection Matrix
Chapter 8: Formative design evaluation of the Influence Explorer and Prosection Matrix
Part 3: Providing Designers with Tools for Thought
Chapter 9: Characterising Interactive External Representations
Chapter 10: Characterising Interactive Action
Part 4: Epilogue
Chapter 11: Thesis Overview
Part 5 : References