An investigation into a new aesthetics of scientific data visualisation

Richard Qi Li, Mark McMahon and Hanadi Haddad
2013 Conference

Visualisation is an essential part of scientific discovery where it is used as a visual tool to assist scientists identifying patterns for analysing and interpreting the scientific data (Cox 2006). The primary focus of visualisation has traditionally been on pure communication, however, this paper argues that aesthetic considerations have the potential to enhance emotional engagement in user perception of visual images. This is supported by existing research that reinforces the utility of aesthetics in terms of making people more open to identifying problems and developing creative solutions to them (Norman 2004). This paper explores the development of a new aesthetic of data visualisation by applying a Chinese traditional yijing [意境] aesthetic. This aesthetic emphasises the unification of subjective experience and objective scene (Li 2009; Zhang 2005). In traditional Chinese painting, yijing focuses on a unity of the spirit of subject and the reality of object, which is a unification of void [虚] and reality [实] (Zong 2005). A theoretical model is proposed that provides a framework for integrating aesthetics into scientific visualisation to enhance emotional engagement in a subject. This is demonstrated through the instantiation of a product that illustrates sleep using Electroencephalography (EEG) data.

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About the author

Richard Li is a Ph.D candidature in School of communication and arts at Edith Cowan University. Richard has been worked as a freelance artist in London and as a lecturer in China and he has exhibited in the UK, NZ and China. He is interested in cross-disciplines studies; especially in how computer based technology enhance creativity and links art methods to scientific discipline.

Mark McMahon is Associate Dean Learning and Teaching in Edith Cowan University’s Faculty of Education and Arts and is Program Director for Creative Industries in the School of Communications and Arts. Mark’s teaching has primarily been in the area of Digital Media and Game Design, with a particular focus on creativity and the design of transformational games. This is carried through in his research and consulting work. Mark was lead mentor on the Australian Flexible Learning Toolbox project – a decade long multimillion dollar initiative developing eLearning for the Vocational Education and Training sector.

Dr Hanadi Haddad lectures in Design and is First Year Cordinator at Edith Cowan University’s School of Communications and Arts. Hanadi’s PhD explored the role of Digital Agents in Interactive Media and since then she has conducted research into design education and project management.