Sheelagh Carpendale – Understanding Data Through Interaction and Visualization

Simon Fraser University’s School of Computing Science professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Information Visualization Sheelagh Carpendale is researching new ways to visualize and understand data through her innovative approach to people-centred design of visualizations. As a B.C. Knowledge Development Fund recipient, her work pushes boundaries as she strives to develop accessible, inclusive and comprehensible interactive visualizations for all of us, paying attention to the needs of individuals as well as public and private-sector organizations.

The goal is to support people in all walks of life by improving data accessibility and comprehension through creating appropriate data visualization technologies that can help people negotiate the transformation of data into knowledge. By studying how people interact with information both in work and social settings, she is designing more natural, accessible, and understandable interactive visual representations of data.

Carpendale leads the Innovations in Visualization Research Group, co-directs the Interactive Experiences Lab, and is an internationally renowned leader in both information visualization and interactive technologies. Her research focuses on information visualization, interaction design and qualitative empirical research. She combines information visualization, visual analytics and human-computer interaction with innovative new interaction techniques to better support the everyday practices of people who are viewing, representing and interacting with information.

During her career, she has pioneered innovative information-visualization techniques that help people more easily access, understand and use data to make better decisions. She has received multiple awards, including being inducted into both the IEEE Visualization Academy and the ACM CHI Academy, receiving the IEEE Visualization Career Award, an E.W.R. NSERC Steacie Memorial Fellowship, and a BAFTA.

Big data has the potential to change and improve our world—yet understanding and manipulating these massively complex data sets is still far from simple. Data proliferation is revolutionizing how information is made available, but not everyone feels comfortable understanding data. Although people clearly benefit from digital data technologies, using them is frequently stressful and complex. The problem often lies not with the data itself but with the unwieldy technology offered for access. Carpendale suggests we take our ideas of data democratization broadly; looking to empower people, be inclusive and support diversity.

“A democratic society is based on an informed citizenry,” says Carpendale. “We are in danger of creating a new elite, dividing those who understand data from those who do not. In my research, I work toward leveling the playing field."


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