This interdisciplinary project investigates the potential of interactive information visualizations for public access to digital cultural collections: Space-Time Cubes are assumed to support casual users in their exploration of such collections, in their comprehension of multidimensional metadata, and in the construction of an integrated mental model. In a user-centered design process information visualizations will be developed and empirically evaluated in a series of experiments.
April 2016 - September 2019
Austrian Science Fund (FWF), grant P28363.
Web-based databases of museums’ and cultural institutions’ collections enable fast access to important cultural assets for everyone: Millions of paintings, sculptures, music, and artworks can be reached with only a few clicks. Current research shows that interested visitors like to explore digital collections - often without a concrete goal. They like their observations to add up and make sense and to learn something new. Traditional websites focus on professional users, hence often knowledge of cultural history or the structures of the database are needed to effectively navigate the enormous amount of data. Diagrams and visual overviews can highly improve the accessibility to these collections.
In the project Towards Integrated Mental Models of Cultural Heritage Data one particular method of visualization will be investigated and further developed: the space-time cube (STC) displays spatial distributions as well as the temporal developments in a combined view. It could provide a good overview of cultural heritage data and show the geographical, chronological or topic-specific context of each single element at a glance. The project team will analyze if this method actually aids in exploring the data and in understanding the relations between the data. In cognitive science this comprehension process is defined as the construction of a mental model. A higher number of connections between single bits of information within the mental model equal a better understanding of the data.
Hypothesis: We assume that visualization methods based on the STC improve the construction of a mental model by displaying spatial and temporal information in an integrated way.
Methods: The interdisciplinary project combines approaches of computer science and cognitive science. In a user-centered design process information visualizations will be developed and empirically evaluated through experiments.
Innovation Aspects: The project team develops new methods based on the STC to provide a positive learning experience for non-professional users when exploring cultural heritage data. The research will provide ground-breaking results about the comprehension and exploration of visually depicted information in cultural contexts.