VisWeek 2012 Digest, Part 3

November 19, 2012

(This article was originally published at eagereyes, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

This final installment of the digest sums up a few more thoughts on this year’s VisWeek. Inside: SciVis, BioVis, and parties!


Of all the new things at VisWeek this year, I think I liked the parties most. There always used to be a social event or banquet, and this year’s was just as stodgy and uneventful as most others (there have been some notable exceptions, but not many).

What added a lot of fun, life, and social interaction were the parties. Microsoft Research had one on Monday, which I missed. There was also the West Coast Party, organized by Tamara Munzner of UBC and Jeff Heer of Stanford. It was quite busy and a lot of fun (once you found one of the walking ticket dispensers so you could get a drink).

The big event, though, was The Party, organized by Seattle Visualization Meetup Meister Noah Iliinsky, and sponsored by Tableau. Noah got five of us to give Ignite-style talks (15 slides with 20 seconds for each), which were fun for the few people who paid attention. The setting, at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Seattle, was amazing. They have a rooftop terrace that has great views and is set up for large parties, and we also had their second floor. I don’t know how many people attended, but it was incredibly busy and all the people I talked to seemed to enjoy themselves.

Parties are not just fun, they add an important social layer to the conference. They also are a good indicator of the health of a conference, and if we’re going by this year’s, VisWeek is doing very well.


While I only attended a single session this year (where a paper was presented that I was involved in), I continue to be impressed by BioVis and there’s clearly doing well.

One idea in particular I liked is a brief introduction at the beginning of every session that explains some of the context and biological basics of what the papers will be about. This is incredibly helpful for an audience that is easily 50% non-biologists, so that they have a better chance of following the paper presentations.

Even in regular visualization sessions, I wonder if such an overview might be a good idea. Most people at the conference know about graphs, evaluation, etc., but the level clearly varies, and there are many unstated assumptions. Spending five minutes on some context could add a lot to the presentations, especially in the more technical sessions.

Whither SciVis?

Among all the tweeting, there was a notable absence of tweets from SciVis tracks. I did not see a single one. What was going on in those sessions? Did they shield those rooms from the WiFi? Is there really not a single person in SciVis with a Twitter account?

While the number of SciVis sessions has been decreasing slowly, the rumors of SciVis’ death seem somewhat exaggerated (though I heard several people mention that). SciVis had a respectable 27% acceptance rate this year, comparable to previous years. InfoVis was slightly better at 25%, VAST somewhat worse at 29%.

While I don’t think that the number of blogs on a topic is a good indicator of how active a field is, the lack of SciVis on the web is also striking. Just as with Twitter, it seems odd that nobody seems to bother making any noise about scientific visualization. A good part of the InfoVis activity on the web is from art projects which gravitate towards InfoVis-type work, but still.

All the SciVis blogs I’m aware of have been dead for years or have switched over to InfoVis content. A quick Google search turns up a lot of blogs with one or two postings, typically from around 2006. What is going on here?

VIS 2013

After I wrote last week that I didn’t believe in the name change from VisWeek to VIS, the website was updated and it now announces VIS 2013. It’s still under the domain, though, and in my heart, it will live forever as VisWeek (or for another few months or so, anyway).

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