Using Close Reading as a Method for Evaluating Visualizations

Annie Bares, Stephanie Zeller, Cullen D. Jackson, Daniel F. Keefe, Francesca Samsel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Visualization research and practice that incorporates the arts make claims to being more effective in connecting with users on a human level. However, these claims are difficult to measure quantitatively. In this paper, we present a follow-on study to use close reading, a humanities method from literary studies, to evaluate visualizations created using artistic processes [Bares 2020]. Close reading is a method in literary studies that we've previously explored as a method for evaluating visualizations. To use close reading as an evaluation method, we guide participants through a series of steps designed to prompt them to interpret the visualization's formal, informational, and contextual features. Here we elaborate on our motivations for using close reading as a method to evaluate visualizations, and enumerate the procedures we used in the study to evaluate a 2D visualization, including modifications made because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key findings of this study include that close reading is an effective formative method to elicit information related to interpretation and critique; user subject position; and suspicion or skepticism. Information gained through close reading is valuable in the visualization design and iteration processes, both related to designing features and other formal elements more effectively, as well as in considering larger questions of context and framing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 8th Evaluation and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationMethodological Approaches for Visualization, BELIV 2020
EditorsAnastasia Bezerianos, Kyle Hall, Samuel Huron, Matthew Kay, Miriah Meyer, Michael Sedlmair
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781728196428
StatePublished - Oct 2020
Event8th IEEE Workshop on Evaluation and Beyond: Methodological Approaches for Visualization, BELIV 2020 - Virtual, Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Oct 25 2020 → …

Publication series

NameProceedings - 8th Evaluation and Beyond: Methodological Approaches for Visualization, BELIV 2020


Conference8th IEEE Workshop on Evaluation and Beyond: Methodological Approaches for Visualization, BELIV 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Salt Lake City
Period10/25/20 → …

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported in part by theNational Science Foundation (IIS-1704604 IIS1704904). Brain microstructure applications were supported in part by Dr. Christophe Lenglet at the University of Minnesota and by the National Institutes of Health (P41 EB015894, P30 NS076408). MPAS-O simulations were conducted by Mathew E. Maltrud and Riley X. Brady as part of the Energy Exascale Earth System Moedl (E3SM) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, BER with analyses conductedby P illip Wolfram, E, and RXB under ARPA-E Funding Opportunity No. DE-FOA-0001726, MARINER Award 17/CJ000/09/01, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, prime recipient.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 IEEE.


  • Human-Subjects Qualitative Studies
  • Methodologies


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