7. Theoretical Context: Understanding Conversational Graphics
The overall goal of this research is effective computer participation in human graphic communication activity like that which takes place on blackboards. Blackboard activity is a kind of graphic conversation, involving the spontaneous generation and manipulation of text and graphics for the purpose of communication. Figure 7 shows a group participating in conversational graphics. The image in Figure 10-a [below] is the final frame in the text-graphic performance of Figure 7. For purposes of study, that image was transcribed into computer objects using the vmacs graphics editor, Figure 10-b, becoming the corpus for further analysis [Lakin80a,86a] (as a general purpose editor, vmacs becomes a tool for exploring the rules used by humans to collect elementary visual objects into conceptual groups). One possible underlying grouping structure for that image is shown in Figure 10-c, and future work will attempt to recover these structures. In the meantime, since phrases from special purpose, formal visual languages are often embedded in the imagery of conversational graphics, parsing such languages in order to assist their use is the immediate goal of the research. We expect that strategies and tools developed for processing visual communication objects in these languages can then be taken `back' and applied to the more unrestricted, informal domain. Visual Grammar Notation is one such tool, useful for perspicuously describing the patterns of spatial arrangement in specialized subsets of visual communication activity.
Figure 10a. Final frame in the conversational graphics performance depicted in Figure 7.