Too Many Links - A Solution to Visualise a User's Digital Mental Model

Type of Thesis: 
Master Thesis

On a daily basis users struggle to organse and re-find their stored documents, photos or emails. Personal Cross-Media Information Management investigates the opportunities to provide the user with an alternative to the Desktop Metaphor where we step away from the file hierarchies used to store our information. Our cross-media PIM system is a solution which unifies all organisational structures such as email, bookmark and file hierarchies but also the physical classification structures such as bookshelves or piles of papers on the desk. This PIM approach makes it possible to construct our own personal cross-media information space with less information fragmentation. By providing a tool for centralising all these possible ways of storing our information, we allow the user to re-find the information no matter where or how the information has been stored. Often, users only need information which is relevant in a certain context, such as the slides of a course when studying for that course. Therefore, we include a context-aware component to provide the user with the context-relevant information instead of the currently used static file system.


Our PIM system organises the information in a way similar to the users mental model of the Personal Information Space. Because a user's mental model is constructed by linking or associating concepts, links are seen as a first class objects in our PIM system. This means that users may interact with the links itself instead of only seen the relation between concepts in a static way. Furthermore, the user's digital mental model may become a large flat graph in time which introduces issues on the aspects of navigation and visualisation of the digital mental model.



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The goal of this thesis is to investigate how we might provide a visualisation and interaction technique for the large flat data graph structure of PIM systems. First, the student will define design requirements and analyse the state of the art in information visualisation techniques. In a second step, several visualisation techniques will be compared on the provided interaction and visualisation criteria. A generic visual environment will be implemented based on the result of the previous comparison. We may come up with our own visualisation technique or combining several existing techniques. Special focus is set on the generic aspect of the visual environment for PIM systems where as a proof of concept the visual environment will be applied to our own PIM system.


Background Knowledge: 
  • Java
  • Information Visualisation course is an advantage
  • D3.js or Prefuse library basic knowledge
Technical challenges: 
  • You will learn about generic issues in InfoVis
  • You will learn about innovative visualisation techniques for linked data
  • You will learn about our PIM framework
Sandra Trullemans
Academic Year: