Guidelines for Pursuing and Revealing Data Abstractions

Alex Bigelow, Katy Williams, Katherine E. Isaacs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Many data abstraction types, such as networks or set relationships, remain unfamiliar to data workers beyond the visualization research community. We conduct a survey and series of interviews about how people describe their data, either directly or indirectly. We refer to the latter as latent data abstractions. We conduct a Grounded Theory analysis that (1) interprets the extent to which latent data abstractions exist, (2) reveals the far-reaching effects that the interventionist pursuit of such abstractions can have on data workers, (3) describes why and when data workers may resist such explorations, and (4) suggests how to take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks through transparency about visualization research perspectives and agendas. We then use the themes and codes discovered in the Grounded Theory analysis to develop guidelines for data abstraction in visualization projects. To continue the discussion, we make our dataset open along with a visual interface for further exploration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9246308
Pages (from-to)1503-1513
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Data abstraction
  • Data wrangling
  • Grounded theory
  • Survey design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Signal Processing
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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