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Brie Bunge

Page history last edited by Brie Bunge 14 years, 2 months ago



Brie Bunge is a first-year undergraduate pursuing a BS in SymSys with a concentration in HCI. Brie is currently doing research with Steven Dow and Scott Klemmer in the HCI department.




Reading Jeff Heer's paper on data visualization fit in nicely with the Wednesday HCI lunch. There is a clear gulf between what can be accomplished with traditional data presentation tools and the best way a complicated data set should be displayed for maximum comprehension. ProtoVis really addresses the two core needs of a good visualization system for a designer: (a) to be able to code quickly and (b) to access real data to avoid problematic assumptions. There is a necessary balance between rapid prototyping and expressiveness.


A system like this, that allows for such quick programming, opens up an interesting question of whether it is okay to go straight to code, bypassing the traditional paper prototyping design method. I feel that the best way to make a prototype is to use the best tools for the task at hand. It is hard to mentally conceptualize large data sets, so it doesn't seem very fruitful to spend time sketching out a model that has a high likelihood of being useless and inaccurate.


Jeff's thoughts on what makes a good design were enlightening. I forget who he cited, but the notions of what makes a good visualization - about engagement and play, about revealing mistakes in the data, about finding something that you immediately have to tell someone else - made me think about data presentation differently. When I have previously thought about data visualizations, typical histograms, line graphs, and pie charts were all that came to mind. The depth of possibilities is fascinating.


I fathom a direct application to governmental web sites that strive to provide citizens with information. Oftentimes the presentation renders the material unusable. If systems like the one we saw on Wednesday, which had multiple layers and meaningful graphical representations, were used instead, the story would be much different.


It is important to bear in mind that the graphics should not detract attention from the data; as Jeff pointed out, if this is the case, the visualization failed. The elements are important, however, in the sense that the model should be carefully tailored to suit the dataset in order to get across a certain message.



David Kirsh's approach to active thinking is very intriguing. A familiar mantra is to "learn through doing", but Kirsh takes this to a heightened level. To use our bodies as a form of thinking in and of itself opens new possibilities for understanding our actions.


Augmenting the thought process with action allows us to simplify complex ideas. Thinking inside of ourselves - within our brains - does a great job of perceiving and detecting what's there. Thinking outside of ourselves - through bodily motions - project onto the world and augment the understanding of our perceptions. By adding this second element, that is not typically regarded to as part of the thought process, we can project structure onto the world and, thereby, more easily create and actualize structure.


Some questions that this concept brought up for me were, "What is the value of communication with others? What about shaping the thought processes of others?" Kirsh talks at length about how externalities shape our own thought processes. But, my questions stem from the thought of using these actualizations beyond ourselves as a means of communication with others. Presumably, my actions and actualizations effect and are effected by the thought processes of others.


What initially came to my mind when Kirsh talked about dancers communicating through marking, riffing, and sketching is whether this could be thought of as a language. It surprised me that this wouldn't be the case because of the uniqueness of what is to be represented. By this I mean that only the dancer can know what he or she will truly and fully act out. The complexity and intricacy of this cannot be communicated in a way other than the actual dance itself. This emphasizes the point that the content of physical thought is ineffable - it cannot be expressed, only experienced.



Mitch Resnick's thoughts on learning really resonated with me. Yesterday I listened to a TED talk that spoke about how today's schools were designed in the industrial age. As a result the educational focus is on math and english, while fine arts lie in the shadows. This quotation from Mitch's paper highlights that something needs to be done:


"Unfortunately, most schools are out-of-step with today’s needs: they were not designed to help students develop as creative thinkers. Kindergartens (at least those that remain true to the kindergarten tradition) are an exception. The traditional kindergarten approach to learning is well- matched to the needs of the current society, and should be extended to learners of all ages."


Out-of-step with today's needs - precisely. What would it be like if Shakespeare had attended school today? Would he have had to put down his pencil and stories and studied geometry and calculus and grammar instead? Certainly his creative brilliance would not have flourished as it did. But, even on a more personal and realistic level an opportunity for shifting the focus to creatively approaching problems can foster a more rich community of thinkers.


Mitch brings up a good point about technology's role in attracting older youth and adults:


"I believe that digital technologies, if properly designed and supported, can extend the kindergarten approach, so that learners of all ages can continue to learn in the kindergarten style – and, in the process, continue to develop as creative thinkers."


This opens a fantastic space for designing new technologies to foster creative learning - designing for designers. This directly relates to my research in which I am investigating how crowds can be leveraged during the design process. Because iteration is so crucial, crowds could provide valuable and numerous opinions.


The ideas that Mitch presents have been catching on at the ever popular d.school. People are definitely attracted to this way of learning. I agree - we should embrace it!


This article gave me a must different impression of Pixar than when I attended the company's hiring information session. It seemed as though an animator would potentially spend hours of his or her time making a leg move more naturally. This article portrayed another message: Pixar is a place of endless collaboration and reinvention.


A notion that especially stuck out to me was the idea that creativity is not a solo act, but rather a large number of people from different disciplines working together to solve problems. I was reminded of the discussion we had a couple weeks ago about the value of project-based learning. The way that Pixar scales the breakdown of idea ownership across an entire company is impressive. As soon as people stop caring about who gets the credit and constructive criticism is not personal, big things can happen.


Another aspect of Pixar that is directly applicable to design is what Catmull calls, "the swirling interplay between art and technology." We have talked at length about the value of collaboration across disciplines. Therefore, this vision is especially inspiring.


The value of learning, and more specifically, learning together. Recurs throughout the article. This is a message worth keeping and mind and is often forgotten. I definitely see the value in this concept because as you're learning something new, it's always more rewarding to have someone else there going through the same process and sharing the same successes.

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Brie Bunge - CS549 Notes for 04-16-10.pdf




Comments (2)

Nina Khosla said

at 7:05 pm on Apr 24, 2010

About your Pixar comments, I'm reminded of a product designer I know who quit Ideo to attend business school. A year and a half in, she found herself going crazy: she just wanted to sit in a shop and MAKE something. It also reminds me of an Apple engineer, who proudly carried around a first-gen iPhone, pointed to the metal rim and said, "I engineered that!!" I think creators don't mind time spent on the craft - it's actually a point of pride and enjoyment for them. Certainly, there's nothing better than loosing yourself for a few hours actually making something, and being able to forget about the rest of the world for a moment. I think Pixar is able to supplement this with their culture-wide appreciation for individual's work - I've seen other companies that don't seem to appreciate the work of creators, and that makes for interesting situations.

Steven Dow said

at 2:54 pm on Apr 26, 2010

Brie -- make sure to cross-list your main comments under the Week XX page so that your thought become part of the overall discussion.

I think there's a not-so-subtle distinction between filmmaking and many other types of design that attempt to manage the creative work of many individuals. It's clear what the end product will be and low-level creative folks can happily take pride in (and get credit for) a small piece of the overall design. I imagine it's more difficult to cultivate passion in large design projects that have no clear endgame or that fail to credit the creative work of individuals.

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