An example of an information visualization created by one of Professor Jeff Hemsley's students.

By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

A community meetup on the topic of information visualization is being hosted by the School of Information Studies (iSchool) and Assistant Professor Jeff Hemsley.

The meetup will take place Tuesday, March 3, starting at 6:00 PM. It’s scheduled in the Katzer Room, 347 Hinds Hall, on the Syracuse University campus. The event is open to all students, staff, and faculty. Area business persons and members of the public are also welcome.

The initial session will consist of a workshop and information about how to display data in innovative and informative ways. Professor Hemsley will provide an introduction to D3, an interactive JavaScript visualization library. Attendees are invited to bring their laptops to the session so they can try building a web page with the script tool, something that most people, given some information and a little help, can do in a fairly short period of time, Hemsley observed.

Those planning to attend also are asked to register at the “InfoVis Syracuse” meetup page.

Info Vis Community

This meetup is the first in what Hemsley hopes will become monthly or bi-monthly gatherings  on a range of information visualization topics of interest to the community. He said he plans to survey those attending the first event to determine specific interests, then coordinate future events to reflect those topics. He also envisions alternating meetup locations between the campus and locations at local business or in the community to promote a campus-community exchange.

Those interested in attending might include “anyone who collects or maintains data…designers who might want to start working with data; educators who are thinking about starting to teach elements of visualization; governments, who have a lot of data; and even artists,” he said. “The thing about information visualization is that it makes making sense of data a lot easier than looking at spreadsheets and columns of data. When we find ways to aggregate it and put it together, then we very quickly understand what we are looking at,” the professor noted.

Enthused Students

Hemsley currently teaches an information visualization class at the iSchool as part of its data science curriculum. He reflected how, “my students love working on this stuff. They get to be creative, they get to make pictures, they’re just enthused and engaged. And I imagine there are others folks out there who are also enthused and engaged, or would just be interested in the topic.”

In addition, Hemsley sees mutual opportunities and benefits by bringing students and community businesses and groups together around this topic. Skilled students “have something to offer the [community’s] businesses. A lot of businesses have a lot of data, and some of them don’t necessarily know what to do with that data. Some are already working with the data, but might like to make their visualizations snazzier for communication purposes, or use visualization to explore what they already have,” he said.

Hemsley came to the iSchool in August 2014. His research looks at information diffusion in social media networks. As part of his work, he builds tools that collect, curate, visualize and analyze big data sets. He is a founding member of the iSchool’s Behavior, Information, Technology and Society Laboratory (BITS lab). At the University of Washington, where he received his doctoral degree, he was a founding member of the Social Media Lab at the University of Washington. He is recognized as co-author of Going Viral, winner of a Best Science Book of 2014 Information award from the Association for Information Science and Technology, and also selected by Choice magazine as an outstanding academic title for 2014.