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Using Close Reading as a Method for Evaluating Visualizations

Conference Article

Using Close Reading as a Method for Evaluating Visualizations. Annie Bares, Stephanie Zeller, Cullen D. Jackson, Daniel F. Keefe, Francesca Samsel. 2020 IEEE Workshop on Evaluation and Beyond - Methodological Approaches to Visualization (BELIV) (2020) Volume , Number pp. 29-37


Visualization research and practice that incorporates the arts make claims to being more effective in connecting with users on a human level. However, these claims are difficult to measure quantitatively. In this paper, we present a follow-on study to use close reading, a humanities method from literary studies, to evaluate visualizations created using artistic processes [Bares 2020]. Close reading is a method in literary studies that we've previously explored as a method for evaluating visualizations. To use close reading as an evaluation method, we guide participants through a series of steps designed to prompt them to interpret the visualization's formal, informational, and contextual features. Here we elaborate on our motivations for using close reading as a method to evaluate visualizations, and enumerate the procedures we used in the study to evaluate a 2D visualization, including modifications made because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings of this study include that close reading is an effective formative method to elicit information related to interpretation and critique; user subject position; and suspicion or skepticism. Information gained through close reading is valuable in the visualization design and iteration processes, both related to designing features and other formal elements more effectively, as well as in considering larger questions of context and framing.


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