Hi, I’m Ben Ennis Butler (aka beneb) and I’m a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Design at the University of Canberra. My research revolves around building interfaces that encourage open ended exploration and discovery within cultural heritage collections. You can find aspects of my research and website development work on this site. Enjoy.

Playing with Complexity

In August 2011, just after officially starting my PhD, I gave a paper at the Australian Council for University Art and Design Schools 2011 conference. The paper, Playing with Complexity: An approach to exploratory data visualisation, was written by Sam Hinton, Mitchell Whitelaw and me.

It examines how ideas of play can be used to help a user engage with, and enhance, interactive data visualisations. We argue that the discovery of order within complexity is a pleasurable experience – an experience one can only have if they get the opportunity to play with the data itself. We therefore suggest that there are good reasons to acknowledge the concept of play in the design of interactive interfaces.

The paper has just been published online over at the ACUADS website.

This was the first conference that I’d ever been to, and I was the first speaker on the first day. Mitchell and Sam weren’t able to be there, so I got to do the honours. The paper went down well and here are some points raised in the discussion following it:

  • visualisation is about opening collections to different audiences who might not otherwise be looking at this kind of collection.
  • There was concern about social connectivity – if all this research work is being done online then what happens to those unique conversations you might have with someone when you bump into them in the library (e.g. browsing the stacks and finding something fascinating that you wouldn’t have otherwise found)
  • Can visualisation be used for actual research or is it strictly for playing about?
  • Discovery is interesting but potentially limited – what to do with that information?

All in all, it was a good day and probably quite a good way to kick off my PhD!

Visualising the Visual

Visualising the Visual: Australian Prints in the National Gallery of Australia is the title of the work I produced while completing honours in creative communication in 2010. Information about the project, my exegesis, and lots of fun pictures can be found here.