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Über dieses Buch

This book is intended as both an introduction to the state-of-the-art in visual languages, as well as an exposition of the frontiers of research in advanced visual languages. It is for computer scientists, computer engi­ neers, information scientists, application programmers, and technical managers responsible for software development projects who are inter­ ested in the methodology and manifold applications of visual languages and visual programming. The contents of this book are drawn from invited papers, as well as selected papers from two workshops: the 1985 IEEE Workshop on Lan­ guages for Automation-Cognitive Aspects in Information Processing, which was held in Mallorca, Spain, June 28-30, 1985; and the 1984 IEEE Workshop on Visual Languages, which was held in Hiroshima, Japan, December 7-9, 1984. Panos Ligomenides and I organized the technical program of LFA '85, and Tadao Ichikawa and I organized the techni­ cal program of VL '84. Both workshops have now become successful annual events in their own right. The intersecting area of visual languages and visual programming especially has become a fascinating new research area. It is hoped that this book will focus the reader's attention on some of the interesting research issues as well as the potential for future applications. After reading this book, the reader will undoubtedly get an impression that visual languages and the concept of generalized icons can be studied fruitfully from many different perspectives, including computer graphics, formal language theory, educational methodology, cognitive psychology and visual design.



Visual Languages and Iconic Languages

Introduction: Visual Languages and Iconic Languages

The term “visual language” means different things to different people. To some, it means the objects handled by the language are visual. To others, it means the language itself is visual. To the first group of people, “visual language” means “language for processing visual information,” or “visual information processing language.” To the second group of people, “visual language” means “language for programming with visual expressions,” or “visual programming language.”
Shi-Kuo Chang

Visual Programming Languages


1. Visual Programming Languages: A Perspective and a Dimensional Analysis

In the last few years, the rapid decline of computing costs, coupled with the sharp increase of personal computers and “canned” software, has expanded dramatically the population of the computer user community. More and more people today are using computers. However, to many people, the usefulness of a computer is bounded by the usefulness of the canned application software available for the computer. Application programs written for a mass audience seldom give every user all the capabilities that he/she needs. Those who wish to use the computer to do something beyond the capabilities of the canned programs discover that they have to “program.”
Nan C. Shu

2. Spatial Parsing for Visual Languages

Theoretical context. The long-term goal of this research is computer understanding of how humans use graphics to communicate. The full richness of graphic communication is exemplified in blackboard activity,* which is one kind of conversational graphics. Conversational graphics can be defined as the spontaneous generation and manipulation of text and graphics for the purpose of communication. But there is a problem with taking informal conversational graphics as a phenomenon for investigation using computer tools. The unrestricted use of text and graphics found on blackboards is too rich and ambiguous to be tackled head-on as a project in machine understanding.
Fred Lakin

3. A Visual Programming Environment for Designing User Interfaces

People have long used iconic representations to describe algorithms to other people; mechanical diagrams and procedural flowcharts are examples. But most computers require that algorithms be converted to linear strings of symbols in order to be executed, so algorithms written for computers have been restricted to symbolic representations. The current technology of personal graphics-based workstations will permit people to revert to a more natural visual or iconic mode to describe their algorithms to computers. While linear, symbolic computer languages have been studied and refined over the last 30 years, the challenge facing computer language designers today is to provide convenient and natural visual programming languages.
Robert J. K. Jacob

4. A Visual Language for Forms Definition and Manipulation

An office information system plays a key role in office automation. The most important factor in the office information system is a user-friendly interface, since office workers may be novices for computers. Forms provide a uniform and comfortable interface with the office workers, since much information within an office is found in forms such as reports, letters, and memorandums. Therefore, office information systems should be based on electronic forms which are the computer analog of paper forms.
Kazuo Sugihara, Jun’ichi Miyao, Masayuki Takayama, Tohru Kikuno, Noriyoshi Yoshida

5. Visual Languages for Database Users

Graphs representing a description of a database can be used as the basis for various types of interfaces, with each interface suitable to a different type of database user. A forms administrator can manipulate the graph to create form templates that are used to display data from the database. Database Management System (DBMS) users can manipulate the graph directly to formulate DBMS requests. Graphs play an important role in an interface for novice DBMS users learning a traditional query language. Manipulating graphs is a powerful tool for database administrators in database design. This paper describes four interfaces that use entity relationship (E-R) graphs:
  • Interface for forms administrators to create forms templates used to display data from the database;
  • Interface of DBMS users to formulate requests by directly manipulating the E-R graph;
  • Interface for novice users learning a traditional DBMS command language;
  • Interface for database administrators to design databases.
James A. Larson

Iconic And Visual Information Processing Languages


6. Vicon

A Visual Icon Manager
Several well-known modern workstations (Sun Microsystems, Texas Instrument Explorer, Xerox Star, Dandelion or 1108, etc.) and a few personal computers integrate graphics display systems influenced by the original work done at Xerox PARC by the Smalltalk group.(1)
Olivier Clarisse, Shi-Kuo Chang

7. Play

An Iconic Programming System For Children
Children are commonly introduced to computers through games. Games have been successful this way because they can reduce the amount of expertise required to operate a computer to a few simple operations (such as moving a joystick) while they provide sensory stimulation and understandable goals.(5) However, games are usually very limited in the kinds of interaction they encourage, and in the degree of intellectual challenge they offer children.
Steven L. Tanimoto, Marcia S. Runyan

8. Criteria for Iconic Languages

One of the first input specifiers that a baby learns to use is a pointer, in the form of a finger or an outstretched arm. As any parent knows, the specification process involves two distinct parts: identifying what is wanted, and what is to be done with it. The former is largely a motor skill, while the latter task involves some linguistic ability.
Robert R. Korfhage, Margaret A. Korfhage

9. Hi-Visual

A Language Supporting Visual Interaction in Programming
A new concept for attaining a friendly interaction between user and computer in which the visual icon plays a particularly important role can be described as a process of “seeing and pointing.”(1)
Masahito Hirakawa, Noriaki Monden, Iwao Yoshimoto, Minoru Tanaka, Tadao Ichikawa

10. The ISQL Language

A Software Tool for the Development of Pictorial Information Systems in Medicine
From the electronic storage and management of radiographic images many advantages over management with conventional archives are expected. Some advantages of such systems, called Picture Archiving and Communication Systems (PACS) are
  • Safe storage and easy retrieval of images in clinical work even in very large archives;
  • Arbitrary evaluation of the archive content;
  • Support of image analysis by image processing methods which are only possible with computers;
  • Comparison of images from different modalities and simultaneous display;
  • Linkage of textual and pictorial information in a uniform manner;
  • Simultaneous access to images by several users.
K. Assmann, R. Venema, K. H. Höhne

11. A Conceptual Image Data Model For Image Information Retrieval

Information modeling in image information systems and especially in geographical information systems must enable the end-users to under-stand the logical structure of the data stored in the integrated spatial databases. To do this a conceptual image data model is needed. Such a conceptual model must mirror the large data volumes in the spatial database and many interrelationships between the stored entities. Many approaches can be thought of. Here an object-oriented and relationship-free conceptual data model is chosen, in which inference rules are introduced to compensate the lack of stored object relations in the spatial database. Inference systems are normally slow, and in geographical information systems this is due not only to large data volumes but also to the fact that the geographical distribution of the objects has to be considered. To speed up the inference process objects extracted from the map are organized as lists where the objects are ordered in such a way that the objects which are geographically close to each other are close to each other in the ordered list.
Erland Jungert

Cognitive Aspects in Visual Information Processing


12. Computer Graphics and Mental Imagery

Computer graphics programs can be regarded as producing a kind of “externalized mental imagery.” These programs are constructed to perform as aids to visualization, allowing one to observe the results of visualizing and transforming patterns. To the extent that the programs circumvent the resolution and capacity limitations of the human visual imagery system, they are a definite advance over visualizing in one’s head. That is, natural visualization is limited by how sharp a person’s mental images are and by how much material can be maintained or transformed at once in an image. Computer graphics programs in principle need have no such limitations. However, to the extent that graphics programs are “unnatural” or incapable of mimicking human imagery transformations, they will be more difficult to learn and use. This paper compares and contrasts human imagery with several graphics programs on more than 30 dimensions, with a twofold purpose: to explore ways in which graphics programs could be improved to better externalize mental imagery and to discover ways in which human imagery might be enhanced by utilizing ideas from computer graphics.
Robert J. Weber, Stephen M. Kosslyn

13. Using Visual Concepts

The recent use of icons in user interfaces of application software and also some few attempts to design visual programming languages impose the question of the usefulness of introducing visual concepts into computer systems understanding. Usually these visual symbols or icons are integrated with something like a visual language, which serves together with special manipulation devices as a kind of command language. This form is known as a “graphical interface.” Graphical interfaces can be defined in more detail by expressing all possible spatial functions (e.g., moving a string, etc.) as direct manipulation on visual objects and places and showing all property changes visually.
Gabriele Rohr

14. The Cognitive Aspects of Chinese Character Processing

Archaeological excavations have unearthed pottery etchings that appear ancestral to the Chinese characters (e.g., the shell-and-bone logograph of some 3,400 years ago). Judging by the extent to which these logographs are already conventionalized, it is reasonable to infer that true writing emerged considerably earlier. This suggests that the earliest existing Chinese writing dates back at least some 6,000 years.(1)
Kai Chu

15. Top-Down Design of Human—Computer Interfaces

Systematic examination of publications on the design and the implementation of human—computer interfaces reveals the surprising fact that, although computer scientists refer to such interfaces, the definition of what a human—computer interface is has not been explicated.
Michael J. Tauber

16. The Experiential Knowledge Base as a Cognitive Prosthesis

Growing demands in applications, rapid advances in computer technology, and the continuing impact of the information explosion have caused, during the last decade, substantial progress in the technology of complex data management systems. A parallel trend towards using knowledge-based systems in a support role for decision making has also been on the rise in recent years. Expert knowledge systems that use encoded expertise are being designed to solve diagnostic, classification, and planning problems, in ways that resemble those of human experts. In addition to their use by decision makers as consultation resources for policy making, expert knowledge systems may also be used so that managers may intelligently exploit the vast databases of the advanced management information systems, by having ready access to expertise about finances, planning, and company policies.
Panos A. Ligomenides


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