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Visual Display of Quantitative Information
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Edward Tufte one-day course,
Presenting Data and Information
San Francisco, December 12, 13, 14
San Jose, December 16
I took your 1-day course today in Boston and it was wonderful! My area is the production of animations for explaining novel and/or complex medical/scientific ideas. Examples include mechanism of action of drugs at the cellular/molecular levels, function of medical devices, and drug delivery. I'd very much appreciate if you could answer the following questions:
1. When is animation a better solution compared to a still image, or even a series of still images? When is 3D animation better than 2D animation?
2. Is there any evidence that visual explanations are superior to other modes (text, voice) in terms of understanding, retention, or preference by learners?
3. Can you refer me to a review or book on the use of animation in scientific visualization?
Thanks very much!
-- Edward Perper (email)
Animations are usually going to work better when they describe something that actually moves. For reasoning about cardiology, animation and sound are obviously useful and relevant. For reasoning about typography, probably not. You should also see the thread on this board dealing with Flash animations.
Still-land is a powerful competitor for animations; still-land Muybridge, for example, beats animated Muybridge, although we should see both.
The appropriate dimensionality of the display is a function of the dimensionality of the content and the number of dimensions necessary to understand the content issues. Since the world we seek to understand is almost always multivariate, generally the more dimensions (if relevant) the better.
Chapter 1 of Visual Explanations discusses scientific visualization. The literature up to 1997 was disappointing; chapter 1 notes the appallingly high rates of dequantification in scientific visualizations which were too much computer exercises and too little science. Maybe that has changed in the last few years.
In addition, still-land diagrams may equal or out-perform animations. See Visual Explantions, particularly the examples on pages 57 (heart surgery and the design issue of time-space equivalence), 85 (3D and an 11D parallel matrix), and 108-109 (the amazing Saturn of Christiaan Huygens, and 3 other examples).
-- Edward Tufte
Tufte is correct, animation for the sake of animation can hinder learning. And animation done poorly is horrible.
Animation for things that move in the real world, animation in the proper sequence of events (labels and definition of terms providing content to the movement rather than confusing it), and animation that is well-designed (sometimes includes exaggeration of impact, slowing down it the correct spots, and really difficult smoothness) can lead to greater understanding. But few individuals do this well.
The other problem with animation is that the viewer may become a passive learner. How much of the Discovery channel can you remember a week from now? Active learning is usually one of the best ways we remember things.
Readings that might be of interest:
Chang, B. and D. Ungar. Animation: From Cartoons to the User Interface. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on User Interface and Software Technology, 1993, pp. 45-55. [ACM DL].
Hudson, S.E. and J.T. Stasko. Animation Support in a User Interface Toolkit: Flexible, Robust, and Reusable Abstractions. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on User Interface and Software Technology, 1993, pp. 57-67. [ACM DL].
Baecker, R., I. Small and R. Mander. Bringing Icons to Life. Conference Proceedings on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1991, pp. 1-6. [ACM DL].
Lasseter, J. Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation. Proceedings of SIGGRAPH, 1987, pp. 35-44. [ACM DL].
Fekete, J., E. Bizouarn, E. Cournarie, T. Galas, and F. Taillefer. TicTacToon: A Paperless System for Professional 2D Animation. In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH, 1995, pp. 79-90. [ACM DL].
-- karen medina (email)
Readings about Multimedia Information and Learning:
Faraday, P. and A. Sutcliffe. An Empirical Study of Attending and Comprehending Multimedia Presentations. Proceedings of ACM Multimedia, 1996, pp. 265-275. [ACM DL].
Byrne, M.D., R. Catrambone, and J.T. Stasko. (1999). Evaluating Animation as Student Aids in Learning Computer Algorithms. Computers and Education, 33 (4): 253-278.
Kozma, R.B. Learning with Media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2): 179-211, 1991.
Mayer, R.E. Aids to Text Comprehension. Educational Psychologist, 19 (1984), 30-42.
Bailey, H.J. and N.E. Thornton. Interactive Video: Innovative Episodes for Enhancing Education. Computer Applications in Engineering Education, 1(1): 1992/93, pp. 97-108.
Berg, G.A. Human-computer Interaction (HCI) in Educational Environments: Implications of Understanding Computers as Media. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 9(4): 349-370, 2000.
Bishop, M.J. and W.M. Cates. Theoretical Foundations for Sound's Use in Multimedia Instruction to Enhance Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(3): 5-22, 2001.
Dillon, A. and R. Gabbard. Hypermedia as an Educational Technology: A Review of the Quantitative Research Literature on Learner Comprehension, Control, and Style. Review of Educational Research, 68(3): 322-349, 1998.
Farrell, I.H. and D.M. Moore. The Effects of Navigation Tools on Learners' Achievement and Attitude in a Hypermedia Environment. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 29(2): 169-181, 2000.
Hartley, K. Learning Strategies and Hypermedia Instruction. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 10(3): 285-305, 2001.
Lawless, K.A. and S.W. Brown. Multimedia Learning Environments: Issues of Learner Control and Navigation. Instructional Science, 25(2): 117-131, 1997.
MacLachlan, J. Psychologically-based Techniques for Improving Learning Within Computerized Tutorials. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 13(3): 65-70, 1986.
Mayer, R.E. and P. Chandler. When Learning is Just a Click Away: Does Simple User Interaction Foster Deeper Understanding of Multimedia Messages? Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2): 390-397, 2001.
Mayer, R.E. and R. Moreno. Aids to Computer-based Multimedia Learning. Learning and Instruction, Vol. 12, pp. 107-119, 2002.
Najjar, L.J. Multimedia Information and Learning. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 5 (1996), 129-150.
Soloway, E. How the Nintendo Generation Learns. Communications of the ACM, 34(9): 23-26 and 95, 1991.
Song, S.H. and J.M. Keller. Effectiveness of Motivationally Adaptive Computer-assisted Instruction on the Dynamic Aspects of Motivation. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(2): 5-22, 2001.
-- karen medina (email)
For a particularly good example of an excellent medical animation (very little extraneous junk, simplifies a relatively difficult-to-explain subject), see Graham Watson's graphic on brachytherapy for prostate cancer:
I imagine a text-only explanation or even a 2D non-animated picture would have been markedly less effective at describing the procedure.
-- Tiffany Ying (email)
Here's a link to the TEDTalk by the immensely talented biomedical animator Drew Berry. Called "Animations of Unseeable Biology", it shows some very compelling flypasts of real- time molecular activity, enhanced by expository colorization.
Of course for Raquel Welch you will still need to watch Fantastic Voyage...
-- Graham Larkin (email)