Towards Context-Sensitive Physicalization Design : Exploring the Perception of and Interaction with Physicalizations

Sauvé, Kim and Houben, Steven (2023) Towards Context-Sensitive Physicalization Design : Exploring the Perception of and Interaction with Physicalizations. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Data physicalization, defined as physical artifacts that encode data in their 3D form, is an emerging field within Human-Computer Interaction. As the field continues to evolve, there remain conceptual and empirical challenges to overcome, including the comprehension of people’s perceptions and interactions with the tangible aspect of physicalizations. Hence, more research is needed to foster advancement in the field and ensure that physicalizations reliably and effectively communicate information. Previous research often uses either a device-centric approach, emphasizing technology and interaction techniques, or a domain-centric approach, leading to custom-designed artifacts for specific applications with limited generalizability. In contrast, this thesis aims to obtain a deeper understanding of the ramifications of physicality and contextual factors on people’s interactions with physicalization design, independent of implementation. The thesis commences with a meta-review to understand state-of-the-art physicalizations in relation to their surrounding audience and context. The first study investigates the perception of abstract bar chart physicalizations, revealing that people’s perception of physical information is directly influenced by user orientation. The second study explores people’s strategies for reconfiguring bar chart physicalizations, showing that they generally employ two approaches: proximity and atomic orientation changes. These findings inform the design of a bespoke toolkit utilized in the third study to examine the construction and labeling of physicalizations. This final study illustrates how data labeling plays a crucial role in the creation process, final visualization design, and across orientations. The contributions of this thesis include a conceptual framework to describe physicalizations in relation to their context, a novel methodology to investigate the influence of physicality on people’s interactions with physicalizations across orientations, and empirical findings on people’s perception, reconfiguration, and labeling of physicalizations. The ultimate aim is to guide future research toward designing context-sensitive physicalizations that either minimize or leverage the influence of orientation on people’s interactions with physicalizations.

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Thesis (PhD)
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08 Aug 2023 12:55
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 06:04