Representation, the visual, temporal, and/or aural form used to stand for something, can be shown dynamically, illustrating change over time as well as the physical components themselves. Visual representations can convey information statically, without any movement. It is important for designers to consider project goals and viewer expectations when determining effective and appropriate ways to treat and structure information.

Qualitative information provides general ideas or a sense of meaning in topics (connotations), while quantitative information emphasizes specific amounts (denotations). Since this project focuses largely on sensing a "perception of the whole" through patterns, rather than comparing details about individual components, qualitative approaches seem appropriate and valuable. It is important to understand how quantitative data can be represented accurately but also provide concrete, sensory-based understanding of numbers and amounts.

Categorization and Appropriateness
Abstract and Literal Representation
Point of View
Pacing and Simultaneity
Narrative and Indexical Structures
Expectations and Perception

Categorization and Appropriateness
Grouping data that share similar characteristics in relation to the larger system can assist representation. Position within the structure is typically based on gradual differences in characteristics that are shared among the members of the group. For example, the objects in figure 11 can be organized categorically according to their shape. Objects can also be positioned hierarchically based on their size. In his book, Information Anxiety 2, information designer Richard Wurman describes the task of grouping as organization. He explains, "The ways of organizing information are finite. It can only be organized by location, alphabet, time, category, or hierarchy." (Wurman, p.40) I would add the comparison of information by parts to whole to his list.

"While information may be infinite, the ways of structuring it are not. And once you have a place in which the information can be plugged, it becomes that much more useful. Your choice will be determined by the story you want to tell. Each way will permit a different understanding of the information—within each are many variations. However, recognizing that the main choices are limited makes the process less intimidating." (Ibid.)

Wurman explains the importance of clearly identifying goals. For example, designers and educators may find that providing students with facts and figures is not the only goal in presenting scientific information. The quality of representations is as important as content or an inventory of constituent parts because form affects how viewers interpret information. Concrete attributes, while possibly exceeding the needs of the task at hand, may improve comprehension and retention of concepts by triggering connections to larger analogous experiences.Therefore, large concepts become easier to grasp when groups of data are represented graphically, temporally, and/or aurally rather than more abstractly in a textual or numerical form. For example, in figure 12, numbers, which are abstract, indicate the atomic mass of two elements. Figure 13 illustrates how those values can be translated into graphic forms that describe mass concretely through scale. In a digital environment information can also be described by changes in:

> pitch: the level of sound an object makes
> location: the position of objects on a screen
> proximity: the location of objects in comparison to others
> quantity: the number of objects visible or sounds heard
> duration: the amounts of time objects are visible or sounds are heard
> direction: the object's quality of movement from one point to another
> attraction/repulsion: the movement of objects in relation to one another
> speed: the rate at which objects move or sounds are heard
> frequency: the number of times objects appear or sounds are heard

The use of these conventions may also reduce the need for a written language in describing concepts that may make communication more universal. I have used many of these conventions throughout my studies; some have been more successful than others have, which raises the issue of appropriateness.

Wurman touches on the idea of appropriateness by stating that forms of representation affect the understanding of information. Donald Norman describes it in greater detail in his principle of appropriateness, arguing the necessity for information to be quickly and easily understood and matched to the task.

"The representation used by the artifacts should provide exactly the information acceptable to the task: neither more nor less." (Norman, p.97)

The understanding of qualitative concepts can also be part of the task, which Norman fails to address. For example, scale change and the duration of representations can provide important information. Unfortunately, the sensing and feeling of information, which can be emphasized in a dynamic medium, are often devalued in determining representational forms. And although I believe providing a quick reading of content is important, I think the discovery of information is also valuable. These ideas are discussed in greater detail in the following sections.

Exploring a range of representations in my projects has enabled me to understand the importance of appropriateness. In constructing the periodic table study (project 1), I found changing the scale of element abbreviations to be an effective way to indicate mass because the correlation of mass to size is not a big conceptual leap for people to make (figure 14). Plus, the representation of information conveys content by utilizing inherent attributes rather than adding unnecessary components. However, I used red and blue to describe greater and lesser amounts of electronegativity which seems less successful (figure 15). Warm and cool colors may be connected to higher/lower, greater/lesser more easily than green and purple. But since people do not typically equate specific colors with amounts, this system requires viewers to learn the code of the representation whereas, using scale to describe mass enables a more immediate and natural mapping of form to content.

"Experiential cognition is aided when the properties of the representation match the properties of the thing being represented." (Norman, p.72)

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Abstract and Literal Representations
Information can be represented literally by mimicking material objects and/or sounds, or abstractly by using qualities, states, and actions in place of real things. However, neither form of representation dictates the type of perception used in comprehending information. In fact, information that is represented abstractly can still provide ways for people to sense and feel information, encouraging concrete perception and analogies to things in the real world that share concepts. I used abstract representations in several of my studies, such as the periodic table project previously referenced, to convey scientific concepts concretely.

Appropriateness needs to be considered when determining whether abstract or literal representations best accomplish the interpretive task at hand. For example, the global warming study (project 5) uses familiar images, such as a person pumping gas and water running from a faucet, to explain the effects of fossil fuels on water supply (figure 16). These images represent everyday activities more accurately than do abstract symbols, letters, or numbers. As a result people are better able to grasp the effects of global warming by connecting what they see and hear to familiar situations.

I discovered an unsuccessful use of literal representation in a biology book, which attempts to explain the process of cell division through photographs (figure 17). However, the components of the cell are difficult to see, making the images useless for anything more than seeing an actual cell. In creating the study (project 4), I found it most useful to simplify the components of the cell as abstract shapes, enabling comparisons to be made throughout the viewing process (figure 18).

While exploring ways of describing each category of information found in the periodic table (project 1), I experimented with literal representations and found them problematic as well. I videotaped a person pouring vinegar into a glass filled with baking soda, in order to explain how reactivity functions (figure 19). Upon contact with the vinegar, the baking soda bubbles to the top of the glass and overflows. Although the glass fills the frame of the video and the reaction can be seen clearly, the content of the video—the glass and the liquid—draws more attention than the process taking place. People can't relate to the visuals in this context and hence question what they see. Is the powder an antacid? Is the blue liquid a detergent? Therefore, for the purposes of this project, the literal representation of a reaction didn't communicate reactivity successfully.

I then explored the use of abstract forms to represent reactivity effectively. By analyzing the baking soda study, I discovered that a quick change in state or movement characterizes reactivity. For example, vinegar poured into a glass of water doesn't produce the rapid change apparent in the vinegar and baking soda study. I used a simple shape and a range of speeds to describe reactivity (figure 20). Most people correlate speed with levels of activity. Hence, slow moving objects indicate less reactivity than fast moving objects. I chose to use circles in the project because they do not draw as much attention as the glass, so people are able to focus on the actions being performed. Since still circles don't carry specific meaning, their movements convey concepts. A similar—looking static icon which helps people connect the two representations reinforces the activity. Therefore, when viewers see the static icon throughout the study they are easily able to recall the temporal representation of reactivity previously shown. By creating several studies that explore abstract and literal forms of representation, I see the merit and necessity for both but also understand the importance of considering appropriateness.

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Point of View
In Women, Fire and Dangerous Things, philosopher/linguist, George Lakoff explains that people store information categorically in their minds and sort and recall experiences and concepts based on these categories. Therefore, the more closely digital interfaces can match concrete things, either in representation, interaction, or experience, depending on the goals of the project, the more easily related categories can be triggered.

It is important to take this concept a step further. Not only is it valuable to integrate familiar objects and actions into the representation of ideas, but the point of view captured must also be considered because it influences interpretation. For example, when communicating what a child sees, it may be less descriptive to see a child looking at an object on a table than to present his view of that object at a camera height that matches his eye level.

The importance of point of view can clearly be seen in the helium inhalation project I constructed (project 2). In the first iteration, two people are represented by black graphic bodies (figure 21). Mouse interaction causes sound waves to be emitted from one figure in the direction of the other. The repetition of interaction forms a visible pattern and the concept of helium carrying sound waves through air faster than normal, due to its lighter weight, is clear. Unfortunately, the experience is not engaging because the representation of the people does not directly relate to a situation most viewers recall or expect. As a result, the representation does not invite viewers to recall any sensory impression from past experiences and the meaning is decontextualized.

Realizing the flaw in the project several weeks later, I created a second version that places viewers directly in front of a person inhaling helium (figure 22). The sounds and the actions of the man mimic those that people most frequently store as memories of prior, similar experiences. In this case, multiple channels of information function as reference points, triggering the recollection of memories. Recalling the experience of inhaling helium in a fully sensory way through mouse interaction makes these connections even stronger.

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Pacing and Simultaneity
"Pacing, like motion, is an element as critical as the subject matter itself. Alfred Hitchcock used timing and pacing in a film to create suspense in ways previously not conceived. Music videos use time and motion to create moods and influence emotions." (Shedroff, p.290)

The importance of pacing in digital communication cannot be overlooked. Previously mentioned are Scott McCloud's definitions of the types of transitions that can occur temporally: moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect, and non-sequitur. Each of them uses pacing differently to convey meaning. For example, telling a story moment-to-moment (figure 23) takes up a lot more time in visual screens than scene-to-scene changes (figure 24). Not only are moment-to-moment transitions cumbersome, they are also often unnecessary. Designers need to question how much information their viewers need to interpret messages. Designers may be able to tell their story in two frames versus twenty. Therefore, issues of condensed and expanded time and the effective use of each must be considered.

Not only do the number of transitions affect communication, the duration and simultaneity of information alters messages as well. People's ability to read information presented in a dynamic form becomes more sophisticated as the delivery method becomes increasingly common. In fact, young viewers are so animation- savvy that they often require dynamic media continually to exceed their expectations in order to sustain their interest. In constructing meaning, it is important for designers to be critical of the speed at which their communication moves and the amount of information they are presenting at any given point in time. Is it necessary to read specific areas of text? Are there points where reflection is needed before moving on to other concepts?

The effects pacing and the layering of information have on the legibility and understanding of content became clear while creating the periodic table study (project 1). Due to the complexity of the data, I found it particularly necessary to present information in a carefully choreographed order to enable viewers to progressively connect concepts (figure 25). Upon entry, to the study people receive a common text-based definition for a specific characteristic, such as atomic mass. The definition is connected to an icon that identifies atomic mass throughout the interface. As the icon disappears, two elements are highlighted and referenced below the table. Their form changes over time to explain concretely the representation of atomic mass. The icon appears, once again, reinforcing the connection between the kinetic and static representation. In this case, the order, pacing, duration, and simultaneity of information clearly affect the way content is interpreted.

Pacing and simultaneity can convey meaning themselves. Image sequences that are repeated consistently over a period of time are identified cognitively as patterns. Controlling intervals in the duration of each sequence can convey a progression. People also bring meaning to movement based on their previous knowledge of similar experiences.

"There is a visual literacy to timing, editing, and motion that we learn through experience. By the time we're young adults, we often take for granted the visual cues employed to tell a story—often used to tell it more efficiently. Just as we take for granted the act of talking to another person through a plastic impersonal device like the telephone (something that babies must learn); so too, do we take for granted the visual devices we've become accustomed to in the telling of stories on screen, such as close-ups, jump-cuts, establishing shots, and speed lines." (Shedroff, p.290)

Quite different from all of my other studies in its departure from an analytical perspective, the biology/machine study (project 6), an autonomous movie, allowed me to explore and analyze the use of pacing and simultaneity to convey the meaning of scientific concepts. The study attempts to draw connections in the transfer of energy between a mechanical object (a wind-up toy) and a plant. The correlating factor is energy intake and use. Since energy is one of the most difficult concepts for people to grasp, I found the challenge of conveying this abstraction concretely, by using time and imagery, to be difficult. Pacing is critically important in this project because it must describe energy by mimicking the behavior of energy. For example, the speed of the toy decreases as the amount of stored energy is depleted (figure 26). The representation also needs to supply pertinent information to viewers, enabling them to define relationships between the two objects. Timecode, a set of moving numbers that signify time, represents the differences in the duration each object needs to store and use energy (figure 27). Both studies illustrated the importance of pacing and the potential it holds for communicating complex, abstract concepts. For example, pacing may be useful in explaining temporal scientific concepts that are difficult to visualize, such as the speed at which sound travels.

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Narrative and Indexical Structures
In conducting my studies, I've found that complex, abstract information can be communicated effectively in the form of narrative or indexical structures. A narrative (figure 28), defined as a spoken or written account of connected events in the order of their happening, can be presented linearly—in a straight line, or non-linearly—out of sequence. In contrast, an index (figure 29) typically refers to a list of facts organized arbitrarly. In both cases, it is important for designers to consider how appropriately a particular structure matches their intended goals for the project.

In his book, Image of a City, Kevin Lynch describes urban environments and, through his collection of people's perceptions of pattern, creates a language of form. The language includes nodes, districts, edges, paths and landmarks. Each component has specific characteristics that distinguishes it from another and is used to explain the perceptions of city organization. Although his definitions are useful, for my purposes, the most interesting area of Lynch's work is his ability to view pattern finding from a user's perspective; a person's concept of relationships among units and a user's need to attain information at specific points in order to make confident decisions. Lynch argues that everyone forms cognitive maps—impressions of activity that are built in the mind—in order to move confidently through spaces.

People see patterns in the language of any form, such as faces (figure 30). Therefore, Lynch's concepts can also be applied to the structure and presentation of information in digital environments. Learning and using his concepts in my own work has forced me to consider users during all stages of research and implementation, adapting structures that are appropriate to specific problems.

In his book, Acts of Meaning, Jerome Bruner discusses the patterns people find in form from a slightly different perspective. He explains that people make sense of extraordinary events by integrating them into stories (narrative pattern) that involve familiar contexts. Complex information, which is often difficult to visualize may also become easier to understand by communicating content narratively (Bruner, p.47).

The sheer volume of information and inherent cause/effect relationships in the explanation of global warming issues lead me to determine that a narrative form of communicating would effectively convey the information I needed to present (project 5). Since the cause/effect patterns are essentially stories—this leads to that—I found it useful to present the content of the project in a similar manner. Upon entry, viewers see a single noun, 'the sun' and an arrow that branches off of it. When selecting the arrow, the verb, 'generates' appears, connecting back to the noun, 'energy' (figure 31). Several arrows branch off of 'energy' that can be clicked to reveal more verbs and corresponding nouns (figure 32). Interaction with the digital environment produces a visual, qualitative narrative, built over a period of time. This process is defined as concept mapping by education professors Novak and Gowin in their book Learning How to Learn. In building the information over time, I was also able to reduce the amount of overload placed on viewers.

In contrast, the complex structure of the periodic table (project 1) is based on a list of characteristics—reactivity for example. Elements can be identified by the various numerical values that describe their reactivity levels. By viewing the table's data simultaneously, relative to a single characteristic, viewers see patterns and can make comparisons. Unfortunately, it is difficult to isolate and examine specific characteristics when viewing all aspects of the periodic table simultaneously and non-hierarchically in a static form. However, by translating the content into a interactive digital environment, viewers are able to activate individual characteristics from a list of options which emphasizes its indexical structure. The physical space enables them to layer categorical content and view more than one pattern at a time (figure 33).

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Expectations and Perception
Just as the structure of information affects the manner in which it is received, viewers' perceptions of information systems influence the way they navigate through digital spaces. For example, the presentation of information may encourage viewers to search data, leading them directly to specific content, while others may prompt viewers to browse, building connections across information over time. Both methods can be effective means of communicating ideas. However, designers must be aware of both approaches, consciously implementing features that are appropriate to the task at hand. It is important to consider the expectations and previous experiences of users in determining the best way to present information.

In his book, A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander discusses the fit between architectural form and people's expectations of events and interactions with their surroundings. He explains that buildings and the design of places should reflect the repetitive events among people. For example, to accommodate people's need for quick and easy entry into a building, eliminating the search for a door, designers must make an entrance visible as soon as a building is in sight. Alexander explains that people search for consistencies and disruptions in patterns. Raising the roofline around the entrance and allowing it to project beyond the contour of the rest of the building enables people to naturally notice the difference and move towards it. Main entrance characteristics that are consistently used from building to building form a recognizable pattern. Encouraging pattern discovery through repetition in the design of architectural spaces enables people to utilize their tendency to search for patterns, making the understanding and navigation of areas natural.

Alexander explains that people learn to read environments based on the repetitive elements that use similar structures, such as church steeples. Once interacting with these environments, associations are built between their appearance and the activities conducted there. Hence, similar looking structures will cause people to recall or orient behavior to familiar events or activities. Therefore, prior to constructing a building, it is important to consider its intended function and whether or not its structure will match people's associations with appropriate activity.

The same concepts apply to the design of digital spaces. For example, upon entering the periodic table study (project 1), viewers see several blinking squares, which adhere to their notions of activity (figure 34) because a pattern of expected behavior has already been established by previous encounters with interactive media. Based on their experience with television, people expect motion to connote some form of activity whereas they anticipate a set of like objects that matches their notion of a web-based browsing mechanism to function in a predictable manner. The motion prompts people to roll the mouse over each area to receive additional information. In performing the action, viewers discover that each square serves as an entry point into the body of information. The system structure appears familiar to viewers, enabling them to move through the space in a natural way.

The cell division study (project 4) functions similarly. After moving through a narrative structure in the forefront of the project that describes the nature and components of cells, viewers enter an area structured to encourage them to browse and explore the interface. People discover information by rolling over cell parts and the defined steps of the division process (figure 35). The stages of cell division are fixed and canšt be altered. However, the path viewers take in discovering and moving through the information sequence is not predetermined.

(project 6) presents information in a manner that does not encourage people to search, browse, or interact with information. Functioning as a narrative, content is presented incrementally following a specified path. Since information is in continuous motion throughout the duration of the study the representation doesn't invite viewer participation but accurately depicts its use.

The various representation methods used in each of these studies have shown me the value in fully understanding project goals—both for designers and viewers. It has also revealed ways of making the acquisition of information more intuitive. By integrating characteristics of actions performed in everyday life, people can easily understand the ways in which they are able to move through digital spaces.

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