Evaluation of Multivariate Visualization on a Multivariate Task

Mark A. Livingston, Jonathan W. Decker, Zhuming Ai
Multivariate visualization techniques have attracted great interest as the dimensionality of data sets grows. One premise of such techniques is that simultaneous visual representation of multiple variables will enable the data analyst to detect patterns amongst multiple variables. Such insights could lead to development of new techniques for rigorous (numerical) analysis of complex relationships hidden within the data. Two natural questions arise from this premise: Which multivariate visualization techniques are the most effective for high-dimensional data sets? How does the analysis task change this utility ranking? We present a user study with a new task to answer the first question. We provide some insights to the second question based on the results of our study and results available in the literature. Our task led to significant differences in error, response time, and subjective workload ratings amongst four visualization techniques. We implemented three integrated techniques (Data-driven Spots, Oriented Slivers, and Attribute Blocks), as well as a baseline case of separate grayscale images. The baseline case fared poorly on all three measures, whereas Datadriven Spots yielded the best accuracy and was among the best in response time. These results differ from comparisons of similar techniques with other tasks, and we review all the techniques, tasks, and results (from our work and previous work) to understand the reasons for this discrepancy.