One-person brainstorming on:
How to represent a lot of people on a relatively small screen?
First, I want to look at how people can be differentiated at all in an on-line community. Then I'll have a look at the graphical possiblities to represent these different groups. And then, I'll make some comments.
People can be different because of their...
- Personality: Ask them to fill out a personality profile test?
They won't do that without being forced to...
- Interests. How do I find out about their interests?
- Questionnaire? See above!
- Looking at their home pages? I guess, it's very complicated to extract interests automatically. However, doing it manually could work.
- Looking at their on-line actions? Perhaps. But this tells us mainly about their on-line actions, not about their interests.
- Actions: What do they do on-line?
Judith did something similar in her paper, and Kimiko proposed that in an earlier assignment (Infoseek newsgroup author profile).
- Discuss and chat: What do they discuss and how intense?
- Download files. What sort of files? Is this important?
- Visit Web pages. Cookie technique?
Problems: How to gather data, and privacy issues.
- Physical location: Where are they?
I am not sure if this is an important discriminator today, unless we are already really close. Adam Holt did something on that.
- Profession: Does this differentiate people in a significant way? I am not sure anymore. I personally could say that I have at least three professions, and they are quite orthogonal on each other...
- How good do I know them? That's something subjective. Anyway, how would I find this out?
- Rate my friends on how good I know them? Hardly. I can't imagine doing this, it's not that simple.
- Just look at how often I email them, or how many times I was on their homepage? Is this a good indicator for how good I know them? No, my parents have no email account, and I know them REALLY well.
How about a relative differentiation? This means: Is the personality similar to mine, are the actions similar to mine, are they physically close to me, do they have the same profession as I have, the same interests? This means, not trying to evaluate them in an absolute way, but just relative to my own person.
Actual graphical representation on the screen
Discrete entities, each representing one person
For each of these entities, hue and saturation can be additional (but somehow limited!) discriminators.
- Their written name or login name (Judith)
- Avatar, thumbnail (a lot of examples)
- Any graphical entity like a circle (Fernanda Viegas), a Star (Paul Rankin), etc.
- Combinations of the above, e.g., an avatar with login name
Continuous representations, no single person can be seen
All these representations can be static or dynamic. A good example for a dynamic representation is the Visual Thesaurus by plumb design.
- Diagrams, Charts
- color shadings
- Why do we always look for representations of persons as a whole, rather than for representations of single aspects of persons? How about representing their cars, their food, their clothes, their opinions, their pets, instead? Aren't we a little too anthropocentric?
- Why are we restricted to graphical representations? Wouldn't audio (or other modalities) be more appropriate? E.g., 3D sound environments, distinguishing periphery from focus of attention? Or what about the fascinating possibilities of olfactoric actuators?
- Why do we still focus on boring screens? Isn't a two dimensional screen something really out of date? Why don't we use holograms or other 3D display techniques?
- Why do we want to represent a virtual society at all? Why is this interesting? Shouldn't we focus on our close environment, on our peergroups, our families? Why should I as an average human being care about the representation of a whole virtual society at all? (Unless I am a researcher, of course...)
Send me some comments!
Last updated Mar 29 1998.