MAS 961: Social Visualization
Judith Donath

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor
Level:Graduate Units:12
Tuesday 10 - 12 in E15-335
Course administrator: Linda Carpenter (


What does a virtual crowd look like? How can you see the rhythms in a mediated conversation? What style of portraiture emerges in the era of data-banks and affect sensors?

The goal of social visualization to create intuitive depictions of online social interaction. There are many challenges and questions in this endeavor, ranging from the analytical (what are the relevant data?) to the interpretive (what do the patterns mean?) to the artistic (how can we both accurately represent the content of the data and also evoke appropriate intuitive responses?)

In this class we will study the cognitive and cultural basis for social visualization through readings drawn from sociology, psychology and interface design. Students will explore new approaches to depicting online crowds and conversations through a series of design sketches and a final project.


02.04 Introduction: What is social visualization?

02.11 The social data in conversations

02.18 no class (president's day)

02.25 Visualizing conversations

03.04 Inhabited information spaces

03.11 Social networks

03.18 The individual in a social world

03.25 no class (spring break)

04.01 Representing people

04.08 Final project proposals

04.15 Portraying the individual

04.22 no class (patriot's day)

04.29 Sonification

05.06 Ubiquitous visualization

05.13 Final project presentation

structure and evaluation

Grades are based on the student's final project (40%), design studies (20%) , written essays (20%), and class participation (20%).

Readings: There will be frequent reading assignments. All students will prepare a short written response to the readings; individuals will be assigned to lead class discussions each week.

Design sketches: There will be several design studies assigned throughout the semester. Students are expected to actively participate in discussing each others' work in class.

Final project: The final project will be a multi-scale depiction of a large online community. Projects will be critiqued by a panel of reviewers and judged for originality, clarity and functionality.

readings and sites (required and supplementary)

mediated society and social visualizations

Donath, J. 1995. Visual Who. In Proceedings of ACM Multimedia `95 , Nov 5-9, San Franciso, CA

Donath, Judith; Karahalios, Karrie; and Viegas, Fernanda. 1999. Visualizing conversations. In Proceedings of HICSS-32 January 5-8, 1999, Maui, Hawaii. (or in .pdf)

Freeman, Linton. Visualizing Social Networks

Garton, Haythornthwaite, and Wellman. 1997. Studying Online Social Networks

Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, Vol 4, no 4. Special issue on Persistant Conversations.

Kautz, Henry; Selman, Bart and Shah, Mehul. The hidden web. AI Magazine, vol. 18, no. 2, Summer 1997, pages 27 - 36. [The ReferralWeb site]

Krempel, Lothar. Network Visualization

Minar, N. 1999. Visualizing the crowd at a web site.

Paolillo, John. 2000. Visualizing Usenet: A Factor-Analytic Approach. In proceedings of the Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences, January 4-7 2000, Maui, Hawaii.

Smith, Marc. 1998.Netscan: measuring and mapping the social structure of Usenet. In Communities in Cyberspace. London: Routledge (in press).[The Netscan site]

Wellman and Hampton. "Examining Community in the Digital Neighbourhood: Early Results from Canada's Wired Suburb" . Pp. 475-92 in Digital Cities: Technologies, Experiences, and Future Perspectives, edited by Toru Ishida and Katherine Isbister. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2000.

Whittaker, S., Terveen, L., Hill, W., and Cherny, L. 1998. The dynamics of mass communication. In The Proceedings of CSCW '98.

visualization examples and techniques


Ahlberg, C. and Shneiderman, B. (1994). Visual information seeking: Tight coupling of dynamic query filters with starfield displays. In Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI '94 Conference Proceedings, pages 313-317.

Bederson, B. B., Hollan, J.D., Perlin, K., Meyer, J., Bacon, D., and Furnas, G. (1996). Pad++: A zoomable graphical sketchpad for exploring alternate interface physics. Journal of Visual Languages and Computing, March 1996, vol.7, (no.1):3-31. (more here)

Bier, E. A., Stone, M. C., Pier, K., Buxton, W., and DeRose, T. (1993). Toolglass and magic lenses: The see-through interface. In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 93 (Anaheim, CA, August 1-6, 1993), pages 73-80. (more here)

Brewster, S. A., Wright, P. C., and Edwards, A.D.N. An Evaluation of Earcons for Use in Auditory Human-Computer Interfaces. Proceedings of ACM CHI '93, April 1993, pp. 222-227.

Card, Stuart K., Robertson, George, and York, William, The WebBook and the Web Forager: An Information Workspace for the World-Wide Web. Proceedings of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI'96), 1996, 111-117.

Matthew Chalmers, Kerry Rodden & Dominique Brodbeck. 1998. The Order of Things: Activity-Centred Information Access. Proc. 7th Intl. Conf. on the World Wide Web, Brisbane, April 1998, pp. 359-367.

Dodge, M. 1999. Cyber Geography Research. An excellent set of links to many visualizations. .

Eick, Stephen G. and Graham J. Wills. Navigating Large Networks with Hierarchies. In Visualization '93 Conference Proceedings, pages 204-210, 25-29 October 1993. San Jose, California.

Eick, Stephen G. Engineering perceptually effective visualizations for abstract data. In Gregory M. Nielson, Heinrich Mueller, and Hans Hagen, editors, Scientific Visualization Overviews, Methodologies and Techniques. IEEE Computer Science Press, pages 191-210, February 1997.

Feiner, S. and Beshers, C. (1990). World within world: Metaphors for exploring n-dimensional virtual worlds. In Proceedings of UIST '90, pages 76-83.

Feiner, S., MacIntyre, B., Haupt, M., and Solomon, E. Windows on the world: 2D windows for 3D augmented reality. Proc. UIST '93 (ACM Symp. on User Interface Software and Technology), Atlanta, GA, November 3-5, 1993, 145-155.
(problem printing)

Furnas, George and Bederson, Benjamin. Space-scale diagrams: understanding multiscale interfaces. In CHI '95. Conference proceedings on Human factors in computing systems, pages 234-241.

Hill, W.C., Hollan, J. D., Wroblewski, D. and McCandless, T. 1992. Edit wear and read wear. Proceedings of CHI `92. 3-9

Honkela, Timo; Kaski, Samuel, Lagus, Krista, and Kohonen, Teuvo. 1997 WEBSOM-Self-Organizing Maps of Document Collections, Proceedings of WSOM'97, Workshop on Self-Organizing Maps, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland, June 4-6, 1997, pp. 310-315. [The WEBSOM site]

Ishii, H. and Ullmer, B., Tangible Bits: Towards Seamless Interfaces between People, Bits, and Atoms. In Proceedings of CHI'97, ACM, March 1997, pp. 234-241.

Kinetic Typography

Munzner, T. and Burchard, P. (1995). Visualizing the structure of the world wide web in 3D hyperbolic space. In Proceedings of the VRML '95 Symposium (San Diego, CA, December 13-16, 1995), pages 33-38.

Paley, W. Bradford. TextArc

Raffle, Hayes and Dan Maynes-Aminzade Fuzzmail

Rennison, E. (1994). Galaxy of news: An approach to visualizing and understanding expansive news landscapes. In Proceedings of UIST '94, pages 3-12.
(problem printing)

Robertson, G. G., Card, S. K., and Mackinlay, J. D. (1993). Information visualization using 3D interactive animation. Communications of the ACM, 36(4):57-71.
(problem viewing & printing)

Small, David. 1996. Navigating large bodies of text. IBM Systems Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3&4.

sociology, linguistics, etc.

Goffman, Erving. 1981. Footing. In Forms of Talk.

Milgram, Stanley. 1977. Psychological maps of Paris. In The Individual in a Social World. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

ibid. The familiar stranger: an aspect of urban anonymity.

Saville-Troike, Muriel. 1982. The Ethnography of Communication. 2nd Edition. New York, NY: Basil Blackwell.
chapter 2

Wellman, Barry. From Little Boxes to Loosely-Bound Networks: The Privatization and Domestication of Community

Whyte, William H.. 1988. City: Rediscovering the Center. New York: Doubleday.

Wirth, Lewis. 1938. Urbanism as a way of life. American Journal of Sociology. Reprinted and abridged in (LeGates, R. and Stout, F., eds.) The City Reader.

art, design and perception

Albers, Joseph. 1975. The Interaction of Color (revised ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Arnheim, Rudolph. 1974. Art and Visual Perception. Berkeley: The University of California Press, revised and expanded edition.

Arnheim, Rudolph. 1988. The Power of the Center. Berkeley: The University of California Press.

Bertin, Jacques. The Semiology of Graphics.

Brilliant, R. 1991. Portraiture. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hochberg, Julian. Perception (2nd edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Jacobson, N and Bender, W. 1996. Color as a determined communicationIBM Systems Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3&4.

Tufte, Edward R. 1983. The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

-------. 1990. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.

Wolfe, Jeremy M. 1996. Visual search. In H. Pashler (Ed.), Attention. London, UK: University College London Press.