Tuesday 12pm, 17 September 2019

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Thinking with Boxes: Visual Abstraction Enables Exploration and Revision in Collaborative Sketching

Tricia Ngoon

PhD Candidate - University of California, San Diego


Online creative communities like Scratch and SwarmSketch allow anyone to collaborate on visual media like art and interactive games, but mostly by adding incremental changes or by remixing finished work. Prior work has enabled earlier-stage collaboration on complex work like stories and news articles, but unlike text, visual media like images are difficult to break down because they lack sequential structure. We present an abstraction method that uses bounding boxes to represent the size and position of elements in a drawing. Users can move and resize boxes to compose and iterate on visual compositions without sketching. In an observational study with six co-located groups, our abstraction method enabled tangible and malleable exploration of alternatives in collaborative drawing. An online evaluation with Mechanical Turk similarly found that abstraction led to more conceptual suggestions for revising a drawing. These results suggest that abstraction can help people communicate high-level ideas in collaborative drawing.


Tricia Ngoon is a Ph.D candidate in Cognitive Science at the University of California, San Diego advised by Scott Klemmer. Her research interests span cognitive science, psychology, computer science, and education to better understand creative cognition. She received a bachelor's degree in Psychology with Honors from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked at Stanford University in cognitive neuroscience. She is currently a summer intern at Adobe Research working with Joy Kim.