Last June, Professor Steve Szigeti from the CCIT and DEM faculty at the University of Toronto Mississauga presented a tool called the Sophi Heads-up Display (HUD) at the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS) in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. The Sophi HUD is a novel visual analytics tool for news media and was developed for editors at the The Globe and Mail. Reflecting the development in digitally distributed journalism in contrast with traditional print newspapers, the tool was developed as a web analytics software to gain insight on reader preferences and to “overlay relevant data about articles’ performances on The Globe and Mail website.”
Regarding the software’s development process and the motivation behind it, Szigeti shared in an email to The Medium that the project began when he was working at the Visual Analytics Lab at OCAD University. The motivation for the Sophi HUD, according to Szigeti, was the result of their collaboration with The Globe and Mail. He explained, “Research with industrial partners always involves a negotiation between our interests as academic researchers and the research interests of our partners—and the fit with The Globe and Mail was excellent.”
He continued, “The Globe and Mail was looking for expertise in visualizing data they were collecting on the reading behaviour of users off their digital properties.” These digital properties include their website and mobile apps. Szigeti elaborated that his area of research focuses on better understanding how people use different technologies and to then design accordingly. To give an example, he described that a “cutting edge visualization of complex data doesn’t make sense if the person viewing the visualization doesn’t understand what they’re looking at and what the data might reveal.” In relation to The Globe and Mail, he said that they are always interested in making it easier for their readers to navigate and find the content that they require.
When asked about how he developed his interest in researching human computer interaction and media design, the design thinking researcher explained that he started designing websites over 20 years ago, as his background is in graphic design. Szigeti also added, that he began working at Teletoon as their web designer when they first launched. The CCIT and DEM professor said he “spent almost 11 years with a front row seat in the emerging interactive field; from websites to iTV to mobile applications to social networks.”
Szigeti explained that his interest has always been in designing for users. This meant that he needed to “understand the user.” As Szigeti further described, “This interest led directly to my doctoral research, focusing on how designers share knowledge in order to solve design problems.”
Teaching a course titled “Rhetoric and Media” this semester, Szigeti explained how his research interests will inform his teaching. He plans to use examples from his network outside of academia, and according to Szigeti, the Sophi HUD could potentially be used as an example in one of the lectures. Since the class will deal with oral and visual communication, the Rhetoric and Media instructor plans on using examples that are relevant to current media design. According to Szigeti, since design is communication and Sophi HUD is about ensuring clear communication, it is relevant to the course. Using examples such as the development of Sophi HUD for students interested in exploring media design, Szigeti said, “The Rhetoric and Media course will teach students how to improve their communications skills through writing, reading and thinking.”