|InfoVis.net>Magazine>message nº 127||Published 2003-07-28|
|También disponible en Español|
The digital magazine of InfoVis.net
Interaction is “the reciprocal action between two or more agents”. At the informational level, the one of our interest, interaction is an essential aspect. It’s one of the basic processes through which we acquire relevant information about our environment. The first reactions of most primates in front of a new thing in the environment are observation and interaction.
Interaction allows us to get information from different perspectives and it’s a nuclear part of learning. The basic idea is to change the environment conditions of the object or agent of our interest in order for it to show another of its facets, possibly hidden in the current state. We exercise a change action in order to achieve a reaction of the object in the new state. The result is a change in our own state. Possibly we identify a new pattern of the object behaviour, that we store in our memory adding up to the knowledge (the list of patterns) about that object.
Interaction, by definition is a reciprocal action. Regardless of who or what initiates the interaction, the result is the modification of the participants’ states. For this reason the simple visualisation of the information contained in a map or a graphic representation, changes our [mental] state but it doesn’t change that of the graphic representation.
The computer is an intrinsically interactive tool, that has made the concept of human-machine interaction to be deeply studied. The graphical user interface (GUI) allow us a much higher level of interaction and learning than the old command line. Unlike graphical representation on paper, computers allow us the interactive creation of graphics that represent large data sets in ways the designer of the visualisation tool didn’t foresee at all.
Online manipulation of the visualisation parameters offers the possibility to change the state of the visualisation itself, incorporating new data, or crossing relations between the existing ones in “a priori” unexpected ways. Interaction makes it possible to explore more possibilities in less time, thus acquiring more patterns of behaviour and, hence, learning more efficiently.
There are two fundamental factors that influence interaction: time and control.
In this article we'll focus on the first. What lapse has to pass between action and reaction in order for us to speak about interaction?. According to the authors of “Readings in Information Visualisation” there are three levels of interaction located around the 1/10, 1, and 10 seconds time scale.
All of us have experienced some time the confusion that appears when the computer slows down to the point where it is impossible to know which keystroke or mouse click is related with its current reaction. The lag that appears when playing an Internet videogame with saturated lines is another example of the effects of breaking the tuning between human temporal constants and the computer response time.
Time, in any case , is a fundamental factor of interaction that has to be tuned to the human constants for assimilation and reaction to temporal events.
Next week we’ll speak about control and techniques for interaction.
* Blumenthal, A.L. The process of cognition, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs NJ, 1977 (Available as used book at Alibris)
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