Dr. Lyn Bartram


Information Visualization Dashboards

April 01, 2019

How can information visualization dashboards be made more useful?

Professor Lyn Bartram details her research and expertise in visual analytics and information visualization.

Visualization and visual analytics are becoming critical new media, and we need to explore the myriad issues in how we increase both data literacy in, expressivity of, and access to these new visual languages for data-driven thinking.

Dr. Lyn Bartram is a full professor at SIAT, where she is a co-founder and the Director of the CoLab, a multi-display research facility to investigate how people work together in both co-located and remote contexts. Professor Bartram is also director of the Vancouver Institute of Visual Analytics. Her research focuses on how humans use complex information systems, particularly in “non-desktop” contexts that either supersede or depart from standard office applications.  I am particularly interested in how we can leverage the capabilities of human perception, cognition, affect and behaviour to reduce the overhead of using information systems.  This underpins applied work in how visualizations, visual analytics and interactive systems can be unobtrusively and efficiently integrated into people’s information ecosystems. I work in both standard and practice-based research methods in applications related to data visualization, personal visual analytics, computational sustainability, and computational aesthetics.

Much of Lyn’s work involves research-in-practice that by definition goes beyond the lab into more unconstrained contexts of use. She and her students engage with a wide diversity of people, professions and disciplines to explore these issues of data and technologies in daily life, notably through projects related to information interfaces and environments for encouraging residential energy and water conservation. Lyn and her team spent several years building the SFU Aware Living Interface System and the two houses in which we have deployed it, both of which were high profile installations and showcases and have been seen together by more than 130,000 visitors. ‘North House’ was entered into the USA Department of Energy 2009 Solar Decathlon while ‘West House’ was showcased at the Vancouver Host City Pavilion during the 2010 Olympics and remains a tenanted living lab.

Lyn’s recent work with colleagues at Tableau and Microsoft around data dashboards was highlighted in a recent  epsode of data.stories, a pre-eminent visualization podcast. The discussion focused on  Lyn’s  October 2019  co-paper at InfoVis entitled “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Dashboards?” co-authored by Alper Sarikaya, Michael Correll, Melanie Tory and Danyel Fisher. Held in Berlin, Germany, IEEE VIS is the world’s largest conference on Scientific Visualization, Information Visualization and Visual Analytics. It is the premier forum for advances in visualization in academia, science, government, industry and beyond.

In her talk, Dr. Bartram examined dashboards as one of the most common use-cases for data visualization, and how their design and contexts of use differ from exploratory visualization tools. In her paper, she examined the broad scope of how dashboards are used in practice through an analysis of dashboard examples and documentation about their use. In the presented paper, Lyn reviewed the literature surrounding dashboard use, constructed a design space for dashboards, and identified major dashboard types. Dashboards were also characterized by their design goals, levels of interaction, and the practices around them. Additionally, based on a  framework and literature review, Lyn and her co-authors suggest a number of fruitful research directions to better support dashboard design, implementation, and use.