Encapsulation and abstraction for modeling and visualizing information uncertainty

Streit, Alexander (2008) Encapsulation and abstraction for modeling and visualizing information uncertainty. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Information uncertainty is inherent in many real-world problems and adds a layer of complexity to modeling and visualization tasks. This often causes users to ignore uncertainty, especially when it comes to visualization, thereby discarding valuable knowledge. A coherent framework for the modeling and visualization of information uncertainty is needed to address this issue In this work, we have identified four major barriers to the uptake of uncertainty modeling and visualization. Firstly, there are numerous uncertainty modeling tech- niques and users are required to anticipate their uncertainty needs before building their data model. Secondly, parameters of uncertainty tend to be treated at the same level as variables making it easy to introduce avoidable errors. This causes the uncertainty technique to dictate the structure of the data model. Thirdly, propagation of uncertainty information must be manually managed. This requires user expertise, is error prone, and can be tedious. Finally, uncertainty visualization techniques tend to be developed for particular uncertainty types, making them largely incompatible with other forms of uncertainty information. This narrows the choice of visualization techniques and results in a tendency for ad hoc uncertainty visualization. The aim of this thesis is to present an integrated information uncertainty modeling and visualization environment that has the following main features: information and its uncertainty are encapsulated into atomic variables, the propagation of uncertainty is automated, and visual mappings are abstracted from the uncertainty information data type. Spreadsheets have previously been shown to be well suited as an approach to visu- alization. In this thesis, we devise a new paradigm extending the traditional spreadsheet to intrinsically support information uncertainty.Our approach is to design a framework that integrates uncertainty modeling tech- niques into a hierarchical order based on levels of detail. The uncertainty information is encapsulated and treated as a unit allowing users to think of their data model in terms of the variables instead of the uncertainty details. The system is intrinsically aware of the encapsulated uncertainty and is therefore able to automatically select appropriate uncertainty propagation methods. A user-objectives based approach to uncertainty visualization is developed to guide the visual mapping of abstracted uncertainty information. Two main abstractions of uncertainty information are explored for the purpose of visual mapping: the Unified Uncertainty Model and the Dual Uncertainty Model. The Unified Uncertainty Model provides a single view of uncertainty for visual mapping, whereas the Dual Uncertainty Model distinguishes between possibilistic and probabilistic views. Such abstractions provide a buffer between the visual mappings and the uncertainty type of the underly- ing data, enabling the user to change the uncertainty detail without causing the visual- ization to fail. Two main case studies are presented. The first case study covers exploratory and forecasting tasks in a business planning context. The second case study inves- tigates sensitivity analysis for financial decision support. Two minor case studies are also included: one to investigate the relevancy visualization objective applied to busi- ness process specifications, and the second to explore the extensibility of the system through General Purpose Graphics Processor Unit (GPGPU) use. A quantitative anal- ysis compares our approach to traditional analytical and numerical spreadsheet-based approaches. Two surveys were conducted to gain feedback on the from potential users. The significance of this work is that we reduce barriers to uncertainty modeling and visualization in three ways. Users do not need a mathematical understanding of the uncertainty modeling technique to use it; uncertainty information is easily added, changed, or removed at any stage of the process; and uncertainty visualizations can be built independently of the uncertainty modeling technique.

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ID Code: 16963
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Pham, Binh L.
Keywords: information uncertainty visualization, information uncertainty modeling, spread- sheets, visualization spreadsheets, uncertainty visualization spreadsheets, visualiza- tion tools, modeling tools, uncertainty modeling, uncertainty visualization, probability, fuzzy visualization, visualization frameworks, visualization
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Past > Schools > School of Information Systems
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Dec 2008 04:58
Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011 13:53

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