Current Projects

“Lively Data” (webtext under review)

Though motion has not always been recognized as a practical or useful modality for data visualization, the increasing popularity of visualizations as public artifacts has led designers to embrace animation for interactive data displays, data videos, and looping data-gifs. This is especially true for data visualizations that are produced for a wide circulation. PEW Research center, for example, known for distilling complex data for the public, has been producing animated visualizations since 2011 in video format, and began producing visualizations as gifs as recently as 2015. We can also witness innovative applications for animated movement in the work of highly-regarded artists in the data visualization community, such as in Yau’s “A Day in The Life of Americans,” or in Hans Rosling’s “The Health and Wealth of Nations.”

In this webtext I offer three case studies of animated visualizations, looking specifically at the way motion is used to enable or reinforce avenues for affective engagement. For each visualization I ask: to what extent do animated data graphics ground their emotional characteristics in the viewer’s embodied experiences? Can we account for the work of some of the emotional valence as due to the novelty of these forms or even of animation itself? Are the emotional appeals of animated visualizations limited to unique data-sets or specific presentational contexts? Would it be possible to port any tactics to other visualizations?

Accounting For Motion Sickness: Design Standards For Accessible Interface Animation

Mobile interfaces make use of these animations to guide the user through complex spatial metaphors to compensate for a limited on-screen area. However, the guidelines driving these interface design elements have not caught up with the growth of the designs themselves. Given real potential for an imagined, univocal “user” for these interfaces, how well do design guidelines warn designers about the potential for both real and figurative “motion sickness?” What approaches are driven by the design standards of major development platforms, and what approaches are driven locally by specific designers or applications?

Engaging in research on usability and UX design, technical communicators are often work in relation to global and local web design standards (Redish, 2010). Crucially, scholars in TPC have drawn on research in disability studies to argue for a robust understanding of accessibility in relation to these standards that accounts for a range of bodies and abilities (Yergeau et al., 2013; Waters, 2010; Palmeri, 2006). In this project, I apply these criteria to contemporary standards for motion in interface design, comparing current design guidelines by major platforms to scholarship in UX and TPC. In sum, I hope to provide an overview of accessibility obstacles in motion design, a “thumbnail sketch” common standards, and tactics for guiding students to accessible design practices.

Cultivating Recursivity: How is the Writing Process Visualized in Online Videos?

Many studies in composition discuss the recursive nature of the writing process, echoing Nancy Sommers’ claim that “It is not that a writer merely conceives of an idea, lets it incubate, and then produces it, but rather that he is constantly defining, and redefining, selecting and rejecting, evaluating and organizing ideas. The idea of a process suggests not just one, but a’ series of on-going activities” (12). However, despite the wide proliferation of visual materials about writing in textbooks and online, little has been written about the way the writing process is visualized by writing teachers specifically for student audiences. In light of these questions, this paper discusses how recursivity is (or, in many cases, is not) visualized in pedagogical videos about the writing process, looking at 1) whether recursivity plays any part in videos about the writing process and 2) the ways that recursivity is visually represented.


Beyond Animation: Toward a Rhetoric of Motion Design for Technical and Professional Writing

My dissertation explores design guidelines in motion design, an under-discussed modality in digital rhetoric that plays an increasingly important role in  in videos, interfaces, and data visualizations. Whereas animation is concerned with the movement of characters, motion design is concerned with the movement of specific design elements, such as typography, lines, and simple shapes. These uses of motion raise questions for the intersection of visual rhetoric and information design. Namely, what does motion do? How does it work in tandem with other visual aspects like color, contrast, or arrangement? And, importantly, how is motion used rhetorically? What are situations where motion is rhetorically useful, and how can we work to recognize those situations in order to use motion effectively in our own multimedia compositions?

In order to identify these rhetorical potentials of motion graphics within the purview of professional and technical communication, I trace the historical trajectory of design principles in animation and motion design, from the canonical 12 principles developed by Disney animators to the contemporary guidelines for interface animation published by Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Highlighting the relationship between these different principles and the field of visual rhetoric, I argue that an emphasis on guiding principles of “realism” and “distraction” promote an arhetorical understanding of motion design, leading to obstacles for the research and teaching of multimodality in technical and professional communication. In response, this dissertation offers four topics for grounding motion design in visual rhetoric:

  • Personality/Affect
  • Choreography
  • Presence (Interactivity)
  • Accessibility

I conclude with strategies for teaching motion design in the context of professional writing drawn from my experience teaching a class in Multimedia Writing that emphasizes motion graphics for professional communication.