Workshop: The Role of Theory in Information Visualization

InfoVisTheory Teaser

Information visualization is a very applied field that prides itself on its practical applications and real-world scenarios. Ignoring the theoretical side is dangerous, however, because it limits our ability to distill useful information about the foundations of the field from the practical work being done, and limits our understanding of how and why our own creations work. The goal of this workshop at VisWeek 2010 is to bring together researchers interested in the theoretical aspects of visualization, define the field, discuss ideas and approaches, and get the word out about the importance of theoretical research in information visualization.



The workshop will be based mostly on discussions. We invite speakers to submit short (2-page) position statements. A small number of these will be invited to give very brief (3-minute) presentations at the workshop. The goal is not to present large bodies of work, but to have the presentations spark discussions.

As an extension of the workshop, we are planning a special issue of a journal devoted to theoretical work in information visualization. More details on this will be coming soon.


Everybody at VisWeek 2010 is welcome to participate in the discussions.

There is no separate registration or fee, it’s all included in the your VisWeek package. All you have to do is show up at the workshop.

Date, Time, Place

October 25, 2010 (Monday), from 8:30am to 12pm in Imperial Ballroom CD


There are many different views of and approaches to theory in visualization. We want to discuss them and come to an understanding of what encompasses theory. Topics that the organizers currently consider theory include:

  • Perceptual research
  • Design studies
  • Ways of systematically exploring the visualization design space
  • Methodological work: how do we do our work, and how can we improve our processes?
  • Representation, structure, metaphors: how and why do we attach meaning to visual shapes?
  • Reference datasets and tasks

Also, how do we make it easier to publish this kind of work? What makes for a good theory paper? Can a theory paper stand on its own, without an application or immediate use? Etc.


Published by

Robert Kosara

Robert Kosara is Senior Research Scientist at Tableau Software, and formerly Associate Professor of Computer Science. His research focus is the communication of data using visualization. In addition to blogging, Robert also runs and tweets.

One thought on “Workshop: The Role of Theory in Information Visualization”

  1. I’m very happy to see a focus on this area – I won’t be able to attend visweek this year (my theory paper was rejected… ha!) but I will be very interested to see the results from this workshop that you’re able to publish in the not too distant future. I think that for the good of the field there will need to be vibrant community of theoreticians who can advance/challenge the science. There are very good reasons why tool/application papers are abundant (funders like to see stuff, we like to make stuff), but I think the reasons why theory hasn’t moved as quickly are less understood. At least part of the problem is that it’s not easy to conceptualize what constitutes a significant advance in theoretical pursuit.

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