The aim of this project was to visualize the communication dynamic of a weekly event that was supposed to be a casual open interdisciplinary lecture and discussion without any strict academic formalities and disciplinary boundaries. But in reality the exact opposite was the case and everybody was upset about that fact.
Following this observation, my research group decided to show our colleagues on an abstraxct level what the dynamic really was like. Nobody was to be exposed. Rather, it was about stimulating a discussion that resulted in rules of communication that worked against this stiff and stressful discussion culture.
Today, scientists work with a variety of different media formats. Thus, in the course of a research process, a vast collection of different analog and digital sources is created. Especially at the beginning of a research process, which is often characterized by conceptual openness and a lack of structure, the great challenge for researchers is to work out one or more concepts from the collected material.
Elevation is a software concept that supports this initial stage of a research process and provides a useful feature set that gives researchers a better overview of their collected material. And how does that work?
This version takes an equilateral triangle as a starting point for the representation of the recorded speaker characteristics (gender, discipline, status) and expresses the frequency and duration of the speech acts via rotation about its own axis and transparency of the surface. The visualization was created with Processing.
Elevation Mental Model behind the software concept, 2019
But using data visualization in order to communicate and to discuss with a small group that is actually the origin of this visualization is quite a challenge. You need to make sure that no one can ever draw any conclusions about who exactly is menat by this visualization. The protection of privacy in this internal communication is a big deal.
On this basis, I have developed a visualization concept that constructs forms or bodies from the recorded personal parameters, which are different from each other, but cannot be clearly assigned. In this way, the generated visualization concentrates only on the dynamics of the course of the discussion, i.e. the intensity of the participation of persons from different disciplinary backgrounds in the discussion.
Elevation is a database-driven client server software in which all entries are stored independently of each other in an endless stream together with a set of metadata. For this reason, all entries are individually addressable, searchable, filterable and can be restructured at any time. Since it is a web-based application, collaborative work is also possible.
This graph above illustrates the mental model behind this software concept. There are a total of five core functions on which the concept is based. Collect (1), comment and add categorised keywords (2), reflect and create connections (3), evaluate (5) and track the process (4). All these work steps, which researchers previously had to perform by using several documents or different programs or platforms, are now combined in one graphical user interface. Elevation therefore allows a holistic view and handling of one's own research materials.
Three examples of different discussions presented with the use of constructed bodies. These visualizations were also interactive and could be fast-forwarded and fast-reversed with the help of a slider.
Elevation Visual Design Concept (preliminary), 2019
Anouk Hoffmeister: Design & Concept
Tom Brewe: Coding (Processing)
This concept was developed within the research group Experiment & Observation at the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, 2015).