Title

A new approach to data visualisation through traditional Chinese aesthetics and gesture-based gaming technology

Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr John Ryan

Abstract

This practice-led research project investigates a possible new interactive aesthetic of data visualisation that emphasises how traditional Chinese aesthetics might be explored and examined in a contemporary digital technological context, specifically in combination with gesture-based gaming technology. Current research from the aesthetic perspective of data visualisation identifies the potential to enhance emotional engagement in the perception of visual images, but is primarily based in Western aesthetic concepts with little reference to non-Western aesthetics. The new aesthetic approach outlined in this research project draws from a non-Western aesthetic concept of the yijing and Taoist cosmological principles proposing the harmonious unification of the body, mind and technologies of visualisation.

The application of traditional Taoist philosophy associated with the Chinese yijing aesthetic to the design of data visualisation emphasises the experience of harmony and unity between a user’s body and the data associated with digital technology. By considering yijing as a possible aesthetic approach to data visualisation, the concept focuses on enhancing the user’s perceptive experience in order to promote a fusion of the user’s feelings and the objective data in the digital technological context. This research project involved the process of creating two artefacts: Living Dream (2015) and Taiji (2015) using a sample of sleep electroencephalography (EEG) data. The artefacts were created using data-based digital practice and a theoretical framework. This framework articulates a data continuum, from information to aesthetics and then to Taoist principles. The two related artefacts were created in terms of the yijing aesthetic that emphasises the complementarity of xu and shi, and Taoist data visualisation that emphasises the unification of the subjective body and the objective data.

This research project also presents a critique of the Western aesthetics underpinning data visualisation, in particular the Kantian sublime that emphasises the experience of power over nature from a distance. The Kantian sublime encompasses the mathematical sublime, emphasising a vastness that exceeds the comprehension of the viewers, and the dynamic sublime, emphasising the attempts of the viewers to control nature. In data visualisation, users perceive the magnitude of data from a distance, in which the users experience fear or awe over the power of the capabilities of technology. However, Taoist philosophy emphasises the unification of the exterior of the body and the exterior of nature as a Taoist body, rather than emphasising the opposition of mind and body. This research project aims to explore this Taoist body philosophy in the context of digital technology. I propose a new concept and practice of Taoist data visualisation involving notions of the digital yijing and the Taoist digital body. Gesture-based gaming technology, such as Kinect, facilitates embodied Taoist data visualisation through interactivity and immersion. Thus, my creative practice explores the transformational relationship between the human body and technology, particularly in creating a new aesthetic approach combining traditional Chinese aesthetics and Taoist body philosophy through gesture-based technology.

LCSH Subject Headings

Information visualization.

Software visualization.

Taoist philosophy.

Aesthetics, Chinese.

Access Note

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