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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Informatics : Informatics

Postgraduate Course: Data Visualisation (INFR11190)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Informatics CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryOnly available to Informatics MSc students on the Data Science or Design Informatics MSc programmes.

This course teaches how to visually explore data and how to criticise, design and implement data visualisations. It teaches the fundamentals of human perception and data visualisation, exploratory data analysis and the importance of interaction in exploration, techniques for data visualisation of specific data sets (networks, temporal data, geographic data, etc..), and storytelling. Group work (50%) includes exploring data using existing visualisation tools, designing and creating visualisation prototypes for exploration or presentation. Individual work (50%) includes criticising data visualisations.

Programming knowledge and experience with JavaScript will very helpful but are not required. The course is open only to students from the following programs: Data Science and Design Informatics.
Course description Only available to Informatics MSc students on the Data Science or Design Informatics MSc programmes.

This course teaches general knowledge about theory, application, design, and evaluation of visualisations. The goal of the course is to enable students to understand the potential of visualisations and how interactive visualisation interfaces can support the workflow of data analysis.

The course will enable students to describe a visualisation problem, to explore the data using visualisations, to discuss and design appropriate visualisation concepts, and to implement and critically reflect on them. The course is designed for an interdisciplinary audience, targeting students with a background in design, informatics, and other areas. General programming skills are not required but some relevant JavaScript library (D3.js, are provided during the first weeks of the course. Besides interactive visualisations, students can opt to create static visualisations (infographics, data comics, posters, etc), data physicalisations, or any other form discussed in the course.

During most of the course, students will work in groups of two to three students using real-world datasets they find themselves or which are provided. Groups will go through all the stages of the exploration and visualisation design process, in alignment with the above listed learning outcomes; explore data and make initial findings, critique the tools and list shortcomings and possible future features, create custom visualisation designs for exploration or presentation, present the visualisations. For a final presentation, each group is expected to present a comprehensive visualisation design project, insights gained, and critical reflections.

The course aims for 11 lectures, each targeting a set of principles in data visualisations, and organized as shown below. Lectures will be held as a flipped classroom where lectures require listening to a previously recorded lecture, or reading a book chapter or representative (easy to understand) scientific paper.

Lecture topics:
1. Foundations of data visualisation: Perception, visual variables, exploratory data analysis, explanatory visualisation, scenarios, tools.
2. Visualisation Techniques: visualisations for statistical data, hierarchies and networks, temporal data, geographical data, multivariate data, etc.
3. Advanced topics: data-driven storytelling, interaction techniques, and evaluation techniques.
4. Guest lectures (to be decided upon availability): data physicalisation, visual analytics, geo-visualisation, visualisation in immersive environments, HCI for visualisation, etc.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Only available to Informatics MSc students on the Data Science or Design Informatics MSc programmes.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analysis: Identify and describe a visualisation challenge in terms of context, stakeholders, data, and tasks.
  2. Design: Design and implement a visualisation through one of various media (website, physicalization, infographic, etc.) and through a self-chosen set of tools. Visualization designs are meant to match an earlier identified challenge.
  3. Evaluation: Critically reflect on a visualisation design and suggest constructive solutions.
Reading List
- Segel, Heer, Narrative Visualization, 2010,
- Bertin, Semiology of Graphics, 1987
- Nussbaumer: Storytelling with Data, 2017:
- Tufte: Visual Evidence: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative, 1997
- Colin Ware: Information Visualization, 1999
- Tamara Munzner: Visualization Analysis & Design, 2014
- Scott Murray: Interactive Data Visualization for the Web An Introduction to designing with D3, 2013
- Manual Lima: Visual Complexity Mapping Patterns of Information, 2011
- Ben Shneiderman: The eyes have it: A task by data type taxonomy for information visualizations, 1996
- Panday et al: How deceptive are deceptive visualizations: An empirical analysis of common distortion techniques, 2015
- Von Landesberger et al: Visual analysis of large graphs: state of the art and future research challenges, 2011
- Tamara Munzner: A nested model for visualization design and validation, 2009
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - Problem analysis: analyse the problem related to exploring and communicating data in a specific context
- Critical thinking: thinking critically about the effectiveness of data visualisation for a given challenge, in a given context.
- Creativity: searching for (novel) alternative visualisation solutions to a specific challenge
- Visual design: sensitivity about how to use visual design skills to improve visual communication
- Teamwork: discussing problems and ideas within a group of students.
- Verbal communication: presenting and discussing a data visualisation, avoiding common pitfalls in communicating with data visualisations.
Special Arrangements Only available to Informatics MSc students on the Data Science or Design Informatics MSc programmes.
Keywordsdata visualisation,exploratory data analysis,visual design,data science,interface design
Course organiserDr Benjamin Bach
Tel: (0131 6)51 3076
Course secretaryMs Lindsay Seal
Tel: (0131 6)50 2701
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