Social Visualizations of Newsgroups and Email
Speaker: Judith Donath , MIT Media Lab
Date: November 14 2003
Social visualization - the visualization of social information for social purposes - is a new and important area within the field of computer-mediated communication. In these media, the sparseness of social cues often limits expressiveness and intelligibility; the goal of social visualization is to enrich online interaction by making key activity patterns visible.
In this talk I will present discuss social visualization within the context of depicting Usenet newsgroups and personal email archives.
Usenet is a public discussion space structured as a collection of hierarchically organized topical discussion newsgroups. Although all groups share a common interface (threaded text, within this common format, an immense range of topics, conversational styles, and cultural mores have evolved. How can we use the the salient features of social interaction to build a "legible" interactive visual representation of Usenet?
The email archives that people accumulate are a dense, complex, and highly personal record of their past interactions. As email becomes increasingly ubiquitous, these include not only their work interactions, but also their relationships with family members, friends, doctors, teachers, etc. However, current mail clients do little to support these archives beyond providing a basic filing and searching system. How can we transform this interface into a sociable space; a place where one feels surrounded by friends, conversations, and memories?
Judith Donath is an Assistant Professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she directs the Sociable Media research group. Her work focuses on the social side of computing, synthesizing knowledge from fields such as graphic design, urban studies and cognitive science to build innovative interfaces for online communities and virtual identities. She pioneered a number of social applications for the web, including the first postcard service ("The Electric Postcard"), the first interactive, juried art show ("Portraits in Cyberspace") and an early large-scale web event ("A Day in the Life of Cyberspace"). Recently, she directed "Id/Entity", an exhibit of collaboratively produced installations examining science and technology's transformation of the subject and form of portraiture. Her current research focuses on creating expressive visualizations of social interactions and on building experimental environments that mix real and virtual experiences. Professor Donath received her doctoral and master's degrees in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT, her bachelor's degree in History from Yale University, and has worked professionally as a designer and builder of educational software and experimental media.
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