Human activity (in all its forms) can result in large volumes of data being collected and simply stored in the hope that one day it can be analysed and explored. From business to health records, or experiments to environmental monitoring, the rate at which we can collect and store data continues to outstrip the provision of tools for the effective analysis and exploration of such data. Yet this problem is not new and many questions arise from the legal retention of data to how analysis of such data may reveal new insights.
When we perform an analysis we engage in a detailed examination of the elements or structure of a problem, situation or object. This examination involves the identification and measurement of the constituent parts of the elements or structure, which gives rise to pieces of information or, data. The systematic computational analysis of such data gives rise to analytics, which provides insights into the data from which one can take action. Common reasons for applying analytics is to improve financial management and budgeting, operations and production, strategy and business development and sales and marketing. Data analysis and computational analysis, or analytics, is commonplace today.
Immersive Analytics is an emerging field of research and development which seeks a deeper engagement with the analysis and data. It draws on the various meanings of the term immersive coupled with the different approaches to analytics, giving rise to slightly different interpretations. There are two primary facets related to the term immersive analytics. The first, and more literal aspect, is to be immersed or submerged in the data and analytic task. This gives rise to the examination of the range of human senses, modalities and technologies which might allow one to have their various senses fully immersed. A second facet, is the provision of computational analysis methods which facilitate a deep mental involvement with the task and data. Smooth interaction with the data and analytic task might allow people to concentrate and focus their attention, allowing them to enter a ``flow state'' which affords them the depth of thought required to be fully immersed.
The ultimate goal is to computationally support individual and collective human thinking where it happens, in our minds. By focussing our attention and concentrating on a particular problem we can exhibit a deep mental involvement with the task and data. In this, computation should augment, not replace our thinking. When we examine the elements or structure of a problem, situation or object we want to be able to draw in new information which we don't currently know. The new information or computational process should be available in such a fluid manner that we don't need to expend additional mental effort to access it. When we turn our thinking to the analysis of the elements or structure of a problem, situation or object then our detailed thinking brings forth data, as required, to undertake this examination. Where we cannot easily reason about the fresh data due perhaps to its scale, then we can call on computation to support our thinking.
In Emerson's 1837 oration on “The American Scholar” he said, "Man thinking must not be subdued by his instruments.” Our instruments should allow us to continue our thinking without being concerned with how we get access to the data we need to solve the problems we face, nor concern ourselves with how we translate our thoughts into a form which might be processed or supported computationally. This talk provides an introduction to the field of Immersive Analytics, the technologies which are enabling it and the research challenges ahead to ensure we aren’t “subdued by our instruments”.
About this LectureNumber of Slides: 70
Duration: 45 minutes
Languages Available: English
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