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The Theory Guide to VisWeek 2010

Theory is a big topic at VisWeek this year. You can get through almost the entire conference purely on theory papers. Whether that's a good idea is another question of course, but here's a guide how to do it.


Start your week of with some color theory in the tutorial Applying Color Theory to Visualization, held Sunday morning by Teresa-Marie Rhyne.

And if you think that statistics qualifies as visualization theory (hey, it might!), you could do worse than Hadley Wickham's tutorial on Visualizing Data in R in the afternoon session.

There will also be some theory topics in the doctoral colloquium, but since that's only open for participants, you likely won't get a chance to see that. But just so you know.


Things get serious on Monday morning with the workshop The Role of Theory in Information Visualization. If you care about theory at all, you can't miss that one.

Monday afternoon is a bit of a theory desert, but Chris Weaver's paper in the first afternoon session of VAST promises to be interesting — as do some of the other papers, so I'd suggest to stick with VAST on Monday afternoon.


Tuesday is one of those "it's darkest just before dawn" days. The workshop on Telling Stories with Data promises to be interesting though, and features some top-notch speakers.

But! There's also the VisLies session Tuesday night after the SCI open house (8:30-10pm, Imperial Ballroom CD). This year, it's not only about making fun of terrible decisions made by people who should know better, but also to figure out what we can learn from them.


Once you get to Wednesday, you're good for the rest of the week. Wednesday starts off with the VisWeek keynote by Mary Hegarty, who will talk about the relationship between cognitive science and visualization.

Right after that, the first session in Vis is on Theoretical Foundations of Visualization, and features some really good papers that are not only relevant if you're in SciVis.

In the afternoon, don't miss the InfoVis session on Evaluation, to apply what you learned in the keynote in the morning.

To get a bit of variety into this day, you might want to then switch to the vis track for the weirdly short Vis contest session and the Discovery Exhibition right after that. Round the day off with some posters and a lot of food (the banquet!), and you're ready for …


Okay, I might be biased here. But the two sessions you absolutely have to attend in the morning are Perception and Cognition (featuring our paper on the laws of attraction) and then Multi-dimensional Visualizaton (to learn everything about Pargnostics).

The first afternoon session on Graph Visualization should be theoretical enough for most tastes.

The second one starts out with a Salute to Jacques Bertin, and then continues with Social Applications. The latter may not be all that theoretical, but remember what we said about variety being the spice of life above? Exactly.

At the same time as the SCI Open House on Thursday, there is a BOF on evaluation titled Getting to "a-HA!" — and Knowing How We Got There: A Birds-of-a-Feather Meeting for Visualization Evaluation, which will include discussion about how evaluation relates to theory.


Yes, it's the last day and you're all hung over, but if you don't drag your weary behind to the panel on Visualization Theory: Putting the Pieces Together, you'll be sorry later. You can sleep during the capstone (no, don't do that! that's rude!).

And that's it: An entire week of (almost) non-stop theory papers at VisWeek!

Since I'm running out of clever pictures about theory, the above is a Wordle of all the Vis, InfoVis, and VAST paper and poster titles and authors for 2010. Draw your own conclusions from it.

Posted by Robert Kosara on October 23, 2010. Filed under VisWeek.