Infoscience

Presentation / Talk

Two lectures about representing scientific communities by data visualization

These lectures present a research that investigates the representation of communities, and the way to foster their understanding by different audiences. Communities are complex multidimensional entities intrinsically difficult to represent synthetically. The way to represent them is likely to differ depending on the audience considered: governing entities trying to make decision for the future of the community, general public trying to understand the nature of the community and the members of the community themselves. This work considers two types of communities as example: a scientific organization and an arising domain: the EPFL institutional community composed of faculty members and researchers and, at a world wide level, the emerging community of Digital Humanities researchers. For both cases, the research is organised as a process going from graphical research to actual materialization as physical artefacts (posters, maps, etc.), possibly extended using digital devices (augmented reality applications). Through iterative cycles of design and experimentation, the research explores theoretically (representation theory, studies about networks, cartography, etc.) and experimentally (development of methods to assess the relevance of each representation depending on the target audiences) how to create effective community mapping. Its global ambition is to inform a theory of design helping to understand how certain community representations can lead to actual cognitive shifts in the way a community is understood.

First Day - Design Creation

The lecture proposes a new way to look at scientific communities. Dealing with a very complex situation, where literacy production is enormous and decisions are made using metrics that are judged obsolete by all, we propose a visual way to understand the community organization. How do scholars work together? What is the intermediary object which makes scientific researchers work together? This first session transforms the current situation into a visual object, a design artefact that embodies the elemental in the creation of maps to understand and evaluate scientific communities.

Second Day - Use of the Maps

The lecture proposes the use of maps to understand and evaluate scientific communities. As continuation of yesterday's lecture, the topic of the day is how to present elementary objects—which represents publications, teaching, grants and subjects of matters—in a map. Several maps will be shown, representing a precise scientific community inside the EPFL, but with the perspective to make them adaptable to other communities. Moreover, much attention will be dedicated to the reading and interpretation of these maps. Finally a web-based software will be introduced, to illustrate to members and managers of any given community the benefit of a visual representation of a scientific organisation.

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EPFL authors