Nebula: A Coordinating Grammar of Graphics

Ran Chen, Xinhuan Shu, Jiahui Chen, Di Weng, Junxiu Tang, Siwei Fu, Yingcai Wu

View presentation:2021-10-27T13:15:00ZGMT-0600Change your timezone on the schedule page
Exemplar figure, described by caption below
An example of multiple coordinated views specified in a natural language sentence using Nebula, a visualization grammar. Users can (1) select points in any scatterplot, and (2) the corresponding points in the other scatterplots will be highlighted.
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Data visualization, Grammar, Visualization, Usability, Libraries, Data models, Natural languages, Coordination, Multiple coordinated views, Interactive visualization, Grammar of graphics


In multiple coordinated views (MCVs), visualizations across views update their content in response to users interactions in other views. Interactive systems provide direct manipulation to create coordination between views, but are restricted to limited types of predefined templates. By contrast, textual specification languages enable flexible coordination but expose technical burden. To bridge the gap, we contribute Nebula, a grammar based on natural language for coordinating visualizations in MCVs. The grammar design is informed by a novel framework based on a systematic review of 176 coordinations from existing theories and applications, which describes coordination by demonstration, i.e., how coordination is performed by users. With the framework, Nebula specification formalizes coordination as a composition of user- and coordination-triggered interactions in origin and destination views, respectively, along with potential data transformation between the interactions. We evaluate Nebula by demonstrating its expressiveness with a gallery of diverse examples and analyzing its usability on cognitive dimensions.