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What a graphical line can say in digital environments

Verena Elisabeth Lechner of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled “Meaningful lines. Social Semiotic Investigations of the Graphical Line, used as a Connector in Digital Data Visualizations” and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Tuesday 15 December 2020. (Photo: Private)

All these new options imply that the conventions linking form to meaning potential are under development. The knowledge around current graphical conventions in the data visualization domain is scarce, making it difficult for practitioners to make informed design decisions.

Verena Elisabeth Lechner

PhD Candidate

The disputation will be held digitally, because of the Corona covid-19-situation. Spectators may follow the disputation digitally – link is available below.

 

Verena Elisabeth Lechner of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of Agder has submitted her thesis entitled “Meaningful lines. Social Semiotic Investigations of the Graphical Line, used as a Connector in Digital Data Visualizations” and will defend the thesis for the PhD-degree Tuesday 15 December 2020.

She has followed the PhD-programme at the Faculty of Humanities and Education, with spesialisation in Linguistics.

The research fellowship was funded by The Research Council of Norway, who funded the INDVIL research project - see also indvil.org - led by Professor Martin Engebretsen, UiA.

Summary of the thesis by Verena Elisabeth Lechner:

What a graphical line can say

The graphical line is the fundamental element of many data visualization types.

In many of those, such as timelines, route maps, network diagrams and line graphs, the purpose of the line is to signal a connection between other visual elements.

Influence meaning

How the graphical elements in visualizations look like influences their meaning potentials.

Therefore, a conscious application of visual language is key for effective communication.

New options in digital surroundings

Today, data visualizations are often developed and viewed in a digital environment.

This means that designers can choose from other options than when the visualizations were hand-drawn or printed.

Digital technologies offer a spectrum of options that goes far beyond black and white, dotted, dashed or thin and thick lines.

All these new options imply that the conventions linking form to meaning potential are under development. The knowledge around current graphical conventions in the data visualization domain is scarce, making it difficult for practitioners to make informed design decisions.

Signalling uncertainty

The dissertation deals with that issue, by focusing on connecting lines in current, digital, publicly available data visualizations.

A corpus of 163 award-winning visualizations, that was specifically developed for this dissertation, constitutes the research material.

These visualizations are analysed from a social semiotic perspective, investigating what kind of meaning potentials the connecting lines have, thanks to their specific graphical characteristics.

The most closely investigated issues of the dissertation are how uncertainty/modality and narrativity are signalled.

Based on the investigated corpus, the dissertation reports on graphical conventions that appear to regulate what kind of lines that are used with what kind of intended meanings.

The results of this dissertation are valuable for other researchers, data visualization designers, data visualization tool developers and practitioners setting up data visualization design guidelines as well as educators and teachers in visual communication.

  

Disputation facts

The trial lecture and the public defence will take place online, via the Zoom conferencing app (link below)

Pro-Dean for research, Professor Gunhild Kvåle, Faculty of Humanities and Education, UiA, will chair the disputation.

The trial lecture at 10:00 hours

Public defence at 12:00 hours

 

Given topic for trial lecture: "The implications of social semiotic studies of data visualizations for design practice and education"

Thesis Title: «Meaningful lines. Social semiotic investigations of the graphical line, used as a connector in digital data visualizations

Search for the thesis in AURA - Agder University Research Archive, a digital archive of scientific papers, theses and dissertations from the academic staff and students at the University of Agder.

The thesis is available here:

https://hdl.handle.net/11250/2711099

 

The CandidateVerena Elisabeth Lechner (1990, Bregenz, Austria) Bachelor of Arts in Arts and Design (degree programme InterMedia) at Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences, Austria (2012). Master of Arts in Arts and Design (degree program InterMedia) at Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences, Austria (2014). Since September 2020 employed as research associate at ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences, School of Applied Linguistics, Institute of Applied Media Studies, Winterthur, Switzerland. 

Opponents:

First opponent: Professor Carey Jewitt, London University College, UK

Second opponent: Associate Professor PhD, Morten Boeriis, University of Southern Denmark

Professor II Jan Svennevig, Department of Nordic and Media Studies, University of Agder/ Professor at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, University of Oslo, is appointed as the administrator for the assessment commitee..

Supervisors were Professor Martin Engebretsen (main supervisor) and Reader, Senior Lecturer Jana Holsanova, Lund University, Sweden (co-supervisor)

 

What to do as an audience member:

The disputation is open to the public, but to follow the trial lecture and the public defence, which is transmitted via the Zoom conferencing app, you have to register as an audience member.

We ask audience members to join the virtual trial lecture at 09:50 at the earliest and the public defense at 11:50 at the earliest. After these times, you can leave and rejoin the meeting at any time. Further, we ask audience members to turn off their microphone and camera and keep them turned off throughout the event. You do this at the bottom left of the image when in Zoom. We recommend you use ‘Speaker view’. You select that at the top right corner of the video window when in Zoom.

Opponent ex auditorio:

The chair invites members of the public to pose questions ex auditorio in the introduction to the public defense, with deadlines. It is a prerequisite that the opponent has read the thesis. Questions can be submitted to the chair, Pro-Dean, Professor Gunhild Kvåle at e-mail gunhild.kvale@uia.no