Finding and Using Implicit Structure in Human-Organized Spatial Layouts of Information

Frank M. Shipman III, Catherine C. Marshall

Department of Computer Science
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX 77843-3112
E-mail: {shipman, marshall}

Thomas P. Moran

Xerox PARC
3333 Coyote Hill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304


Many interfaces allow users to manipulate graphical objects, icons representing underlying data or the data themselves, against a backdrop or canvas. Users take advantage of the flexibility offered by spatial manipulation to create evolving lightweight structures. We have been investigating these implicit organizations so we can support user activities like information management or exploratory analysis. To accomplish this goal, we analyzed the spatial structures people create in diverse settings and tasks, developed algorithms to detect the common structures we identified in our survey, and experimented with new facilities based on recognized structure. Similar recognition- based functionality can be used within many common applications, providing more support for users' activities with less attendant overhead.

KEYWORDS: Emergent structure; spatial diagrams; spatial structure recognition; informal systems; hypermedia.