Ambient Information Visualization thesis

If you're into information visualization, the Licentiate thesis of Tobias Skog (Future Applications Lab, Göteborg) is very appealing. It's called "Ambient Information Visualization" (1.7Mb pdf here) and it deals with various issues regarding informative art, everyday displays as well as their utility and evaluations.

This thesis investigates the concept of ambient information visualization. It has its background in the research fields of ubiquitous computing and information visualization (...) The term ambient information visualization distinguishes an area where these two research fields merge, and can be defined as the use of visual representations of digital data to enhance a physical location. These visualizations are typically displayed using flat-panel displays or projectors and ideally act both as information displays and decorative elements in the interiors where they are placed.

The thesis describes a suite of design examples, where the first ones explicitly address the issue of creating a decorative surface by using the styles of famous artists as inspiration for the appearance of the visualizations, creating so-called informative art. Subsequent designs are developed under the superordinate term ambient information visualization and strive to find generic, inherent properties of peripheral information displays and how these properties come to affect design requirements. As a way of informing the design process, visualizations have continually been tested with users in different environments, including exhibition settings with large amounts of visitors as well as long-term studies of use in office settings with smaller user groups. The knowledge gained from the design and study of these examples is analyzed and the results highlight issues that are of central importance when designing a visualization. These issues are divided into three categories that concern the information source, the mapping from data to visual structures and the use of the visualization.

Some of the examples, my favorite is certainly the one using the Mondrian compositions as inspiration to show information about e-mail traffic: