Interview with Anna Ursyn, Professor in the School of Art & Design at the University of Northern Colorado

20/20 Thinking: Enhancing Visual Literacy

By IGI Global on Jun 17, 2013
Anna Ursyn Bird's Eye View

IGI Global recently had the opportunity to speak with Anna Ursyn, Professor and Computer Graphics Area Head at the School of Art and Design of the University of Northern Colorado. She combines programming with software and printmaking media, to unify computer generated and painted images, as well as mixed-media sculptures. Professor Ursyn is editor of the 2012 book “Biologically-Inspired Computing for the Arts: Scientific Data through Graphics” and has two more titles forthcoming in 2014: “Perceptions of Knowledge Visualization: Explaining Concepts through Meaningful Images” and “Computational Solutions for Knowledge, Art, and Entertainment: Information Exchange Beyond Text.” These titles are both part of the Advances in Multimedia and Interactive Technologies Book Series. Her artwork "Bird's Eye View" is displayed above. We caught up with Professor Ursyn to tell us a little about her research, upcoming publications, and the future of visual communications and teaching.

IGI Global: Tell us a little about your forthcoming books. What are the most important issues addressed in each title?

Anna UrsynProfessor Ursyn: The first book, “Perceptions of Knowledge Visualization: Explaining Concepts through Meaningful Images” discusses the idea of developing a platform for enhancing visual literacy skills, which seem decisive for comprehension, sharing, and communicating knowledge. Visualizing knowledge can be done with the use of graphics, where images combine icons, symbols, signs, allegories, and analogies to convey metaphorical meaning and thus possess an explanatory power.

The second book, “Computational Solutions for Knowledge, Art, and Entertainment: Information Exchange Beyond Text” examines the role of integrative, abstract, science inspired thinking, which is used for the image creation with an explanation in mind. The role of art in making connections between art, science, data, and information becomes apparent in graphical presentations. Visual ways of information exchange carry on yet another layers of abstract, coded, and explanatory art production, which links the laws, formulas, dependencies, and connections into artistic creations involving dealing with abstract concepts and cognitive thinking.

What findings have you found most fascinating in your research of visual arts and imagery?

The field of visual communication has been transforming, heading toward the explanatory power existing through the images, moving messages, and interactive data presentations. While most of scientific fields are divided into disciplines that are still intersecting, the design for organizing and coding the data links particular properties, forces, and laws in an interlocking way.

Explain the term “Multisensory Perception.” How will it impact the future of digital imagery?

Our abilities to establish a successful visual and verbal, written or oral communication move us beyond our senses of sight and hearing. With new technologies, techniques, and trends, we can perceive information on various levels, with some overlapping areas. We may discover our abilities to involve other senses into a process of acquiring, sending, and exchanging information simultaneously on various levels. Digital imagery combines with messages conveyed by other media, using signals and spectra that were not perceptible to our senses without technology.

Where do you see the future of information visualization in regards to its role in society?

With technologies supporting almost every area of our productions, we tend to use shortcuts, acquire more information faster, and process it in a more visual manner. Those are connections, shortcuts, and transformations linking the programming, visuals, and the physical world. The word ‘visualization’ gained another level of meaning, when we are using many techniques without even thinking about it.

Who could most benefit your research and study findings?

Information becomes more and more visual. Being able to actively solve problems, link corresponding information, understand the role of a cause and effect in a particular event helps us to build a holistic comprehension of abstract, interconnected concepts. Visualizing knowledge may guide us in structuring our findings. Anyone interested in a cognitive approach to organizing knowledge about of laws, rules, and events, from a nano to macro scale, could benefit from this research and findings. It might be useful for practically everyone interested in exploring the power of knowledge visualization: from students willing to learn through visual production, through specialists willing to explore their discipline from another angle, to teachers who want to organize knowledge.

Is there any message you would like to give to your readers as it pertains to your research?

The main message I’d like to send refers to learning and teaching. I can sum it up, “Begin visualization of knowledge in kindergarten.” This way, information disseminated and then expanded on several educational levels becomes clearer, more intelligible and interesting. It might happen that people who start looking at events with regard to the visual power beyond them might become more interested and opened to further explorations, which might lead them toward their own new line of research.

I am a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH (Association for Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques), an international community of researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, scientists, and business professionals who share an interest in computer graphics and interactive techniques. The association recently created profiles for its’ members, in order to examine what inspires them and to view their work. My interview for the ACM SIGGRAPH can be found here.
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