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Category: Liquid | View

Liquid View Modes

The Liquid View is being designed to provide tailored views for a student performing a Literature Review, not a general graph of nodes and connections.


The specific scenario illustrated below is of the user coming across a person’s name, in this case ‘Wendy Hall’ and would like to get some perspective on how this person fits within the knowledge flow of the field. How this view can be accessed is either directly through the Liquid View or through their word processor as a Spark Point, a point where something sparks the user’s curiosity.


Funnel Mode


Document Citation View

One of the base views is the Funnel Mode where a selected node is in focus in the centre of the screen, with what it relates to in columns to the left and right. This particular view shows:

  • The selected author, ‘Wendy Hall’,  is in larger font, bold, the middle, in a column listing all authors cited in the users database (possible to toggle on/off)
  • Documents ‘Wendy Hall’ has cited on the left
  • Documents which cites ‘Wendy Halls’ are on the right

At the bottom, on the toolbar the user can see that this is a Document Citation View. In this scenario the user clicks on this and options appear, including to choose the Author Citation View, as shown next.



Author Citation View

In this Author Citation View the document columns are replaced by lists of names of authors which the middle highlighted author has cited on the left and is cited by, on the right.

Whether the central column will show only one name or all the names in the document, as illustrated here, is yet to be determined.

In this walkthrough the user will now click on the toolbar at the bottom and return to Document Citation View:

Additions to this view could be to either fade out to move to the left the authors Wendy Hall has cited which are less used by others and therefore could be less or more important. This is the kind of visual interrogations which will be worthwhile to investigate, to see which will be useful and which just clutter.



The user can click on any document name in either column to expand it to see it’s metadata, including authors, date and concepts (or even the abstract possibly). Click (or double click, to be determined) on any of the metadata and it become the central focus. For example, if the user clicks on the name of an author name in the left column then that author becomes the focus in the middle column (not illustrated).

Here is an indication of an expanded view where the user can click on any of the metadata to put it into the centre of the screen:


Graph Mode



The user can choose to switch away from the Funnel Mode of people and book citations, to a more general graph mode. Here both people and documents can appear but the mode is optimised to have concepts front and centre.

In this scenario the concept of ‘Hypertext’ is in focus and category boxes lead out like dendrites (towards) and axons (away) from it.

In this example it is quite bare, with only three categories being shown and only one other node (‘Ted Nelson’). The rationale for the design is that the categories are in essence the names of the links so that is why they are surrounded by the same width line as the lines, to indicate that they can be interacted with to show more.

( The idea of Category is in this case interchangeable with Link Type and adds the function of being possible to break and expand, instead of a traditional line with a label which either points to a node or to nothing if the node is not visible )

In the illustration below, the user has clicked on ‘Hypertext’ and it expands to show:

  • Option on top to ‘Hide’ this node
  • Option at the bottom to ‘Show All Connections’ which would take all the connections listed under ‘Hypertext’; History of, Pioneers, Inspired, Hypermedia and Technologies and put them into the world, leaving behind an visual shadow to indicate their origin (a concept inspired by Chris Gutteridge’s Webleau/Liquid Space).

The user can also drag any of the nested Categories onto the workspace individually.


The Visual Implementation

The use of category boxes are designed to be a mechanism to easily constrain and expand the size of the visual map. Instead of simply having a label on a line, the boxes are the same dimensions of the line and therefore more clearly visually communicate that they contain more information.

This is not the final visual style or ‘finish’ though I will aim to keep it simple. I played around a bit with the superficial and visually inspirational aspect of possible Liquid Views, as mocked up on YouTube:



This is not a passive or read only mode, the user can drag a node onto another node or category to establish a new relationship which gets written into the WordPress post where the node is stored.

  • If the user drags a node onto another node the system will make the connecting line flash to indicate it must go via a Category (current or new)
  • If the user drags a node onto a Category a flashing line appears on the other side of the Category to indicate that the user must drag it onto a node

There are further notes on the Interactions.


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Liquid View Access : Spark Points

An important aspect of the Liquid View is that it needs to be accessible from anywhere to be really useful–accessible whenever the text sparks the users curiosity, such as when seeing a new author they don’t know.

In this example the user comes across the name ‘Hall’ and clicks on ‘Hall’ in the citation brackets (shown middle right in this screenshot) and the normal Liquid | Author citation dialog appears.

The user can then click on ‘Wendy Hall’ to switch into Liquid View and three columns appear, showing publications she has cited, her name and on the right publications which have cited her.

The user can easily click on any element and get a menu to make them centre for another view, such as seeing this by what author she cited and is cited by, not what publications and so on.

The second important aspect is the importance of fast and flexible interaction and the notion of a central point. The column view is not the important part (it should be possible to visualise in many ways, including as various dendrograms and conceptual graphs etc.). What is important is for the user to be able to easily skip around a central focus to choose to see the flows in and out of the locus.



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Literature Review

For the University of Southampton, the official advice offered by the library is to refer to “Doing a Systematic Review” as listed on the website:

1 Planning your review
2 Performing scoping searches, identifying review question and writing  protocol
3 Literature Searching
4 Screening titles and abstracts
5 Obtaining papers
6 Selecting full text articles
7 Data extraction
8 Quality assessment
9 Analysis and synthesis
10 Writing up, editing and disseminating

This project focuses on 9; analysis and synthesis, while providing an output useable by 10, with particular integration with Liquid | Author.

The work-process of 1-9 will be integrated to help the user search (3) from with the View when desired and read the articles (6) with full meta-information attached.

Twofold Aim

The SAGE Study Skill’s “The Literature Review” makes clear there are two separate aims of a LR: The production of a LR document– the ‘Product’–and the ‘Process’ of enriching the student’s understanding of the knowledge space in question.

The Process : The Mental Aim

The mental aim of a literature review is for the student to demonstrate that they are aware of, and can interpret what is already known and where gaps and contradictions in the knowledge (Jesson, Matheson, Lacey, 2011). The process is defined by Fink as a systematic, explicit, and reproducible method for identifying, evaluating and synthesizing the existing body of completed and recorded work by researchers, scholars and practitioners (2013). It is important because a high quality research synthesis can give us the most trustworthy answers to specific review questions, and it can identify gaps in our knowledge that require further research (Booth, Sutton, Papaioannou, 2016).

Intellectual Archeology

The process of doing a literature review is analogous to unearthing artifacts, some of which have a more obvious use a connection to the rest and others less so. In physical archeology, building a picture of the finds involves not only excavating the artifacts themselves but also recording and analysing their features and contexts. The extraction of information takes place both through manual operations and remote sensing. These ways of looking at the process can inform the student’s literature review process by inspiring how the student can add their academic document artifacts to an increasing diagram which they can interact with to develop deeper insights. This notion of actively gathering is reflected in the hypertext literature by Jim Rosenberg in The Structure of Hypertext Activity (1996).

Specific Questions & Speak Points to Support

While doing a LR the student will ask general questions about the field and specific questions based on documents, authors or concept discovered, based on general thoughts and something which sparks their curiosity. These are the interactions the View system will primarily need to support, not just general layouts of nodes. Initial questions can include the following:

Author Centric

Who cited this document?
What else did this author write?
Who did this author collaborate with?

Document Centric

What document cited this document?
What does this document cite?

Concept Centric

Where does a specific concept appear in this document?
Where does a specific concept appear in these documents?

Once questions like these can be quickly and easily posed by the user, the focus will be on how the views can then be modified to answer further questions.

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