Lightning and Thunder: Early Days of Interactive Information Visualization at the University of Maryland

Catherine Plaisant and Ben Shneiderman

In spring of 2022 the editors of the “Visual Computing: Origins” section of the IEEE CG&A magazine asked us to write a paper about the early days of interactive Visualization at the HCIL. The paper emphasizes how community spirit led to creative solutions, how we built relationships with students, work with partners, and how we implemented novel strategies for conducting research.

Another source of HCIL’s success was the support from campus units who worked with our informal self-governance methods. We appreciate all of their contributions, especially in the early years. The HCIL was founded in 1983 as a lab in the Center for Automation Research, led by Prof. Azriel Rosenfeld. His help was instrumental in launching the HCIL. Eventually, HCIL came under the UM Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, which arranged for computing infrastructure because their leadership appreciated our interdisciplinary approach. In the early days, the Department of Computer Science provided lab space, but later as we grew, the College of Information Studies provided a larger facility that enabled the entire group to be housed in one space. All three units provided administrative support for grant management in flexible ways. At times the Institute for System Research backed our projects and helped with outreach. Other units such as Psychology, Journalism, Business, Sociology, Economics, Public Health, the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab) or the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) were partners in projects.

Below is the paper, a summary video and original videos.

The Paper

Plaisant, C., Shneiderman, B., Lightning and Thunder: the Early Days of Interactive Information Visualization at the University of MarylandIEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 42, 4 (2022) 103-113, doi: 10.1109/MCG.2022.3180012.

Video Supplement (17:51) with excerpts from six historical videos