About the Course

CS4460 Information Visualization

Fall 2016

Instructor: Prof. James Foley <foley AT cc.gatech.edu> TSRB 337

Office hours in classroom – KLAUS 1456 – before and after class, or by appointment.

Teaching Assistants

Sreshta Vijayaraghavan sreshta.v AT gatech.edu Office Hours: TR 3 – 6 PM CoC Commons
Lei Xu xulei AT gatech.edu Office Hours: M 12:45 – 2:45 PM, TR 1:45 – 2:45 PM CoC Commons
Qixuan Hou qhou6 AT gatech.edu Office Hours: MWF 9-10AM CoC Commons

Information visualization goes beyond presenting information as static charts, graphs and maps by leveraging the power of computer interaction to help people analyze, understand and make decisions from data.  Dozens of companies – including Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and SAP – offer Information Visualization tools. Thousands of companies and governments use the tools for daily operations and for longer-term strategic planning.

Information visualization methods are applied to data from many different application domains, including:

  • Political reporting and forecasting – as seen on TV and in the papers in election season.
  • News reporting – look at the interactive visualizations used by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slate, etc.
  • Social science and economics data, such as census and other surveys, and micro and macro economic trends.
  • Social networking and web traffic, to understand patterns of communication
  • Business intelligence and business dashboards – to forecast sales trends, understand competitive marketplace positions, allocate resources, manage production and logistics.
  • Text analysis – to determine trends and relationships for literary analysis and for information retrieval.
  • Criminal investigations – to portray the relationships between event, people, places and things.
  • Performance analysis of computer networks and systems.
  • Software engineering – developing, debugging and maintaining software.
  • Bioinformtics, to understand DNA, gene expressions, systems biology.

Course objectives

  • Learn the principles involved in designing effective information visualizations.
  • Understand the wide variety of information visualizations and know what visualizations are appropriate for various types of data and for different goals.
  • Understand how to design and implement information visualizations.
  • Know how information visualizations use dynamic interaction methods to help users understand data.
  • Learn to apply an understanding of human perceptual and cognitive capabilities to the design of information visualizations.
  • Develop skills in critiquing different visualization techniques in the context of user goals and objectives.
  • Learn how to implement compelling information visualizations.

The course will follow a lecture/seminar style with discussions, demonstrations of InfoVis software, viewing of videos and hands-on experience with information visualization software.

Prequisites Junior or Senior status; CS1332 with C or better. Programming assignments require Javascript and D3, and are turned in via GitHub.  If you do not already know Javascript or GitHub, you will need to learn them on your own.  There are three D3 lectures.

Required texts

  • Now You See It, Stephen Few, Analytics Press, 2009. Consider partnering with someone else to buy this.  ISBN 9780970601988
  • Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, Scott Murray, O’Reilly Media, ISBN 9781449339739. All about D3, the programming tool we will be using for homeworks and projects. Free download at http://chimera.labs.oreilly.com/books/1230000000345/
  • Design for Information, Isabel Meirelles, Hachette B, ISBN 9781592538065
  • Search User Interfaces, Marti Hearst, chapters 10 and 11 free download at http://searchuserinterfaces.com/book/.

Other texts for those who want to learn more

  • For those interested in design: Any of Edward Tufte’s three books: The Visual Display of Quantitative Information; Envisioning Information; and Visual Explanations.
  • For those interested in business intelligence and business dashboards: Wayne Eckerson, Performance Dashboards: Measuring, Monitoring, and Managing Your Business, Wiley, 2005, ISBN 978-0471724179
  • For those interested in Network Visualization, particularly Social Networks: Hansen, Shneiderman and Smith, Analyzing Social Media Networks with NodeXL, Morgan Kaufman, 2011, ISBN 978-0-12-382229-1.
  • For those interested in the psychological/perceptual factors affecting information visualization: Colin Ware, Information Visualization: Perception for Design, 2nd Edition, Morgan Kaufman Elsevier 2004, ISBN 978-1558608191.
  • For a deeper treatment of many aspects of InfoVIz: Visualization Analysis and Design, Tamara Munzer, CRC Press 2014, ISBN 9781466508910.

Course format Lectures interspersed with discussion and in-class design activities.

Timeliness  All assignments are due at the time indicated in the schedule.  Late work is NOT accepted, except in cases of medical or family emergencies.  Nor is partial credit given for late submissions. Too much other work, gone for the weekend, ran out of paper etc. are not emergencies.

T-Square, GitHub and Piazza T-Square is for electronic submissions (but some homeworks are submitted in class, see individual assignments for details), and for recording grades. GitHub is for submission of your D3 programming homeworks. The T-Square Wiki is for scheduling meetings with TAs and for project presentations. Piazza is for asking questions.

Grading Grading will be based on class participation, a class presentation, homework, use and analysis of some information visualization tools, and a project.  There will be two tests during the semester, and a final project. Course grades are curved. Grading weights are:

Test 1 18 points
Test 2 18 points
Pop Quizzes (4) 4 points
Homework 25 points
Project 35 points

See the project and homework sections for details.

Mutual expectations At Georgia Tech we believe that it is important to continually strive for an atmosphere of mutual respect, acknowledgement, and responsibility between faculty members and the student body. See http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/22/ for an articulation of some basic expectations – that you can have of me, and that I have of you. In the end, simple respect for knowledge, hard work, and cordial interactions will help build the environment we seek. I encourage you to remain committed to the ideals of Georgia Tech while in this class and always.

Attendance is expected There will be four pop quizzes given at the start of class.  If you arrive late, you will not have extra time to complete the pop quiz.  Institute approved absences will be accommodated, as will absences for interview trips.  Notify a TA in advance, by email, if you will miss class for one of these two reasons (if you feel some other reason for absence is reasonable, email Prof. Foley, but again, in advance). Attendance will be taken during many of the classes. Two unapproved absences are OK.   Only institute approved absences are OK for the two tests and project presentations at the end of the semester.

Collaboration and academic honesty Georgia Tech aims to cultivate a community based on trust, academic integrity, and honor. Students are expected to act according to the highest ethical standards. For information on Georgia Tech’s Academic Honor Code, please visit http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/policies/honor-code/ or http://www.catalog.gatech.edu/rules/18/.

Any student suspected of cheating or plagiarizing on a quiz, exam, or assignment will be reported to the Office of Student Integrity, who will investigate the incident and identify the appropriate penalty for violations.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise, you are expected to do homework on your own. Your project work may borrow libraries and code fragments from sources on the web that you integrate into an overall working system.  Your source code should indicate what code is imported and used as is, what code is imported and modified, and what code is original. It is appropriate to discuss your project with others to gain ideas and feedback and help with sticky problems.  It is not appropriate to find an infoviz system, modify it and submit it as your own work.  If in doubt, confer with your instructor.

In-class use of computers, cell phones and tablets Please put your smart phone away during class. Using computers and tablets  i a way that reinforces the educational context, such as taking notes or visiting a web site being discussed, is appropriate.  Reading email, playing games and web browsing are not appropriate – this unavoidably distracts those sitting near you.  As well, incoming emails and alerts are distracting. Even note-taking on your computer may not be such a great idea: studies have shown that note-taking by hand has been shown to be more efficient for learning (also see this news story), as opposed to by computer, but that’s your call.

Accommodations for students with disabilities If you are a student with learning needs that require special accommodation, contact the Office of Disability Services (often referred to as ADAPTS) at (404)89-2563 or http://disabilityservices.gatech.edu/, as soon as possible, to make an appointment to discuss your special needs and to obtain an accommodations letter. Please also e-mail me as soon as possible in order to set up a time to discuss your learning needs.

Software One of the assignments is to analyze data using Tableau. Tableau’s data visualization software is provided through the Tableau for Teaching program.