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Visual Analytics as a Cognitive Science


Speaker Info:

Brian Fisher
Associate Professor, School of Interactive Arts and Technology
Simon Fraser University



This talk explores the larger implications of visual analytics-- "the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces"-- for cognitive science and informatics. I will argue that the methods that will advance this new science go beyond those of natural science and engineering, and will require researchers to create a new translational cognitive science of analytic systems. We will begin by building field study methods that characterize human and computational cognitive capabilities as they are used for decision-making in a range of situations. Because findings from field methods do not generalize well, we must then investigate these proposed capabilities in the laboratory.

Finally, we must build mathematical and computational theories that predict the impact of changes in technology on cognitive processes in technology-rich environments. These methods will only suffice until processing capacity reduces the lag between an analyst's query and a graphical response to a certain level. When the response is generated at the same pace as the sequence of cognitive operations that the analyst performs, human and computational processes become "close coupled". At this point the distinction between processes originating from the mind of the analyst (i.e. a mental representation) versus the computer (i.e. a visualization) become impossible to determine, and the subsystems we will study will seamlessly incorporate natural and artificial processes.

About the Speaker:

I have built upon my early training in the experimental investigation of human cognitive processes to develop a program of translational research bridging cognitive science and the design of interactive visualization systems. My goal is to advance new theories and research methods for understanding how highly interactive visual information systems can support “close-coupling” of human and computational processes for improved performance in cognitive tasks such as situation analysis, decision-making, creativity, and collaboration in situations ranging from emergency management to aircraft safety, computer-aided design, security administration, and computer-supported learning.

Central to all of these projects is the emerging cognitive systems science that advances current research on cognitive style, expert cognition and skilled perceptuomotor performance to adapt information technology to individual capabilities. Together with field research and “pair analytics” translational methods, this core of laboratory research provides a knowledge-based approach to the design and customization of information systems and their integration in organizational processes.