Information as Art: Interface Uses Pictures to Represent Information

Computing researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology experienced this problem and have created a prototype software program to move such information from the center of your awareness to the periphery. Called InfoCanvas, the program creates an abstract pictorial representation of information people want to monitor. The canvas is displayed on a separate monitor and looks much like a painting hung on a wall or a picture frame set on a desk.
"We wanted people to be able to keep up with the stuff that's important to them, but not have it get in the way," said John Stasko, an associate professor of computing at Georgia Tech. "And the art angle is designed to enhance their environment or make it more aesthetically pleasing."
Stasko and Ph.D. student Todd Miller presented the InfoCanvas concept at an April 7 workshop during the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) 2003 meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other students working on the InfoCanvas project are Shannon Bauman, Julie Isaacs, Jehan Moghazy, Chris Plaue and Zack Pousman.
"This project gets at the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words," Stasko explained.
Ultimately, a proof-of-concept version of InfoCanvas -- funded by a National Science Foundation grant to Stasko -- will allow users to design the entire scene from the background to every graphical image representing different data elements. Right now, researchers manually code those elements into the software prototype after trial users select their graphics from paper cutouts.