Data Visualization on Interactive Surfaces: A Research Agenda


Interactive tabletops and surfaces (ITS) provide new opportunities for the analysis and communication of data using visualizations. In particular in consumer electronics, new forms of computing devices that go beyond the possibilities of desktop screen-, mouse-, and keyboard-based systems are becoming an important attractor. Touch devices, for example, promise to be easier or more comfortable to use and are often thought to be more “intuitive.” Also, it was shown that touch interaction can outperform mouse input for target selection, that it can foster awareness in collaborative settings, and that it provides important somesthetic feedback. In visualization, display medium and data interaction are well recognized as important factors for supporting insight extraction from the depicted data. As visualization practitioners we should, therefore, embrace and explore the possibilities that ITS offer. Yet, as tabletops and surfaces are slowly becoming part of our everyday environments, we still have numerous open research questions to solve at the intersection of visualization and ITS, including:

  • How can ITS contribute to efficient, effective, and satisfactory data analysis with visualizations—what value do ITS have for data exploration with visualizations?
  • What are the design challenges for visualization use on ITS of varying size and configuration and how can we meet them?
  • How do visualizations and applications have to change to take into account novel usage contexts that ITS afford, such as collaborative data analysis?

In an effort to explore this research space, we held a workshop on Data Exploration on Interactive Surfaces (DEXIS) at the ACM Tabletop and Interactive Surfaces (ITS 2011) conference in Kobe, Japan. The goals of this viewpoint article are to report on our results and to propose an initial research agenda for information visualization, scientific visualization, and visual analytics on interactive tabletops and surfaces.

Paper download:  (2.9 MB)


The discussion in this viewpoint article relates to a number of projects/papers I have worked on, including the following:

Main Reference:

Petra Isenberg, Tobias Isenberg, Tobias Hesselmann, Bongshin Lee, Ulrich von Zadow, and Anthony Tang (2013) Data Visualization on Interactive Surfaces: A Research Agenda. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 33(2):16–24, March/April 2013.

BibTeX entry:

@ARTICLE{Isenberg:2013:DVI, author = {Petra Isenberg and Tobias Isenberg and Tobias Hesselmann and Bongshin Lee and von Zadow, Ulrich and Anthony Tang}, title = {Data Visualization on Interactive Surfaces: A Research Agenda}, journal = {IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications}, year = {2013}, volume = {33}, number = {2}, month = mar # {/} # apr, pages = {16--24}, doi = {10.1109/MCG.2013.24}, doi_url = {}, oa_hal_url = {}, url = {}, pdf = {}, }

Reference for the DEXIS Workshop:

(2012) Proceedings of the Workshop on Data Exploration on Interactive Surfaces (DEXIS 2011, November 13, Kobe, Japan). (Petra Isenberg, Sheelagh Carpendale, Tobias Hesselmann, Tobias Isenberg, and Bongshin Lee, Eds.), France, INRIA, 2012. DEXIS proceedings published as INRIA research report # RR-0421 in May 2012; ISSN 0249-6399.

BibTeX entry:

@PROCEEDINGS{Isenberg:2012:PWD, author = {}, title = {Proceedings of the Workshop on Data Exploration on Interactive Surfaces (DEXIS 2011, November 13, Kobe, Japan)}, editor = {Petra Isenberg and Sheelagh Carpendale and Tobias Hesselmann and Tobias Isenberg and Bongshin Lee}, year = {2012}, publisher = {INRIA}, address = {France}, oa_hal_url = {}, url = {}, url2 = {}, pdf = {}, }

This work was done at and in collaboration with the AVIZ project group of INRIA, France, the Scientific Visualization and Computer Graphics Lab of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, and the LIMSI lab at CNRS, France, together with collaborators at other institutions.