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User-Interface and visualization

Cluster objectives

The notion of a "Digital Library" (DL) is currently associated with technological and scientific efforts to build, maintain, and use large collections of electronic documents. However, it can also be regarded as a cornerstone in the construction of an information-enriched environment. Once this broader perspective is adopted, a variety of problems arise which will have to be solved in order to ensure the usability and accessibility of this environment to different users with varying needs and capabilities for both professional and recreational purposes. The ultimate goal of the User-Interface and Visualization cluster is to develop methodologies, techniques and tools to enable future DL designers and developers to meet not only the technological, but also the user-oriented requirements in a balanced way. The cluster will address this goal by pursuing several activities:

Cluster activities

User Requirement related Activities
  • User requirements will be studied systematically. The different perspectives on a digital library will be analysed to relate them to the requirements and technical implementation options that emerge from the ongoing development projects of the NoE partners.

  • All the aspects and phases pertaining to the development and the usage of a DL system will be analyzed. The analysis will not focus only on the DL end user but will also take into account other DL stakeholders such as librarians, content providers and maintainers. The DL life cycle will be related to functional and non-functional requirements.

  • A characterization of DL users will be developed, also taking into account that the user interface accords accessibility for all categories of users, including users with special needs. In addition, this cluster will also explore how users can exploit a multi-modal DL user interface to meet their particular needs.

User Interface and Visualization Design Activities:

We will explore the impact and corresponding DL opportunities with respect to contextual information. The cluster will carry out studies towards developing a taxonomy of relevant context models. A language specification will then be proposed which shall encompass the pertinent characteristics and requirements of context models that were identified during the development of the taxonomy. The cluster will then model context-dependent DL aspects.

The consequence of taking the usage situation/context into account results in rethinking the basic assumptions underlying most contemporary approaches to information filtering and retrieval. This will lead to more realistic definitions of "relevance". Then a comprehensive model for relevance criteria will be developed.

This cluster will investigate the exploitation of relevant existing and/or novel visualizations in presenting DL results/views, and even various aspects of the DL lifecycle. The possibility to effectively extend the visualizations by using text and multimedia data will also be considered. The effectiveness, expressiveness and interactivity of visualization in the DL context will be major issues.

This cluster will build a theoretical framework from which user interface designers/developers can design DL user interfaces. The designer/developer gathers various resources provided by the theoretical framework (e.g. methodologies and tools) and designs a DL user interface (e.g. tailored for some particular application domain).

Moreover, taking into account that future DL solutions will have to provide integrated customisable components that cover the appropriate functionality needed in a given context, the ultimate goal is to develop a design methodology and guidelines that, starting from a generic user interface, will allow to define tailored technical solutions that can be implemented in a given scenario, starting from the users needs. Thus, we aim at an integrated DL architecture, comprising user and application-oriented functions, e.g. query and navigation features, that can be adapted to the informational needs of users.

Expected results

The final integrated results of all above activities will be both the theoretical framework from which user interface designers/developers can design DL user interfaces and the design methodology plus guidelines that will allow the designers to define tailored technical solutions that can be implemented in a given scenario, starting from the users needs. The precise characterization of different user classes, DL life cycle, functional and non functional requirements, visualization effectiveness and the development of a relevance model as well as a context model will be among other expected results.

Cluster report in DELOS Newsletter, Issue 1, April 2004
Cluster report in DELOS Newsletter, Issue 2, October 2004

Cluster coordinator

Tiziana Catarci
DIS Dipartimento di Informatica e Sistemistica "Antonio Ruberti"