Abstract and Figures

This work aimed at expanding thearchitecture of WhatsOnWeb [Di Giacomo et al., 2005] following accessibility and usability state-of-the-art criteria. WoW is a visual Web search engine that conveys the indexed dataset using graph-drawing methods on semantically clustered data. In previous studies [Federici et al., forthcoming; Federici et al., 2008], we found that top-down representation of the most widespread search engines does not take into account the level of accessibility of information, and this ranking highlights the distance between the quantitative order of Web Popularity (WP) and the qualitative level of accessibility of the retrieved information. Conversely, WoW semantically analyzes the search results, and automatically links them in a network of concepts and sub-concepts. The whole information retrieved is presented to the user simultaneously in a interactive visual map, overcoming the gap between quantitative order and qualitative level of information. The redesigning process of WoW has been performed by following the user-centered design methodology and in compliance with the WCAG 1.0. This way, we implemented a sonification algorithm that converts data relations and their spatial coordinates in non-speech sounds (sonification). With WhatsOnWeb we aim at providing an autonomous assistive technology tool that allows for an independent navigation, based on both an integrated synthesizer for screen reading and a sonification system, by which conveying geometrical-spatial information representation. The result is an innovative web search and resulttargeting approach, that also reduces the gap between quantitative and qualitative result ranking, as seen on major web search platforms.
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A visual sonificated web search clustering engine
Alessio Rugo ÆMaria Laura Mele ÆGiuseppe Liotta Æ
Francesco Trotta ÆEmilio Di Giacomo Æ
Simone Borsci ÆStefano Federici
ÓMarta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2009
Information Visualization is a widespread approach of the
Information and Communication Technologies, and it
facilitates the manipulation of abstract information by
representing it by geometric models. It has been shown that
spatial representation can be independent by the sensorial
way in which it is perceived (Avraamides et al. 2004;
De Vega et al. 2001), leading to the hypothesis of an
amodal spatial representation (Bryant 1992).
In light of these studies, an important alternative to
Information Visualization methods appears to be the
Sonification approach, an information representation
method (Olivetti Belardinelli et al. 2009) that implements
non-speech audio information to ‘‘represent data relations
into perceived relations in an acoustic signal for the pur-
poses of facilitating communication and interpretation’’
(Kramer et al. 1997). The main focus of the sonification
approach is on the interactivity between the user and the
data representation, since it allows user to manipulate
complex data and their inner relations in a dynamic way.
Currently, the information representation techniques of
main search engines are based on a top-down hierarchic
order, according to quantitative indexes of ranking. In a
recent study (Borsci et al. 2008; Federici et al. 2009), it has
been shown that high ranking values of web popularity
(WP) do not match with high levels of accessibility. The
top-down output of search engines leads users to assign a
qualitative value to the hierarchy organization based on
WP, although it is calculated without considering quality
indexes (i.e., accessibility). Moreover, Andronico et al.
highlighted the lack of qualitative ratings on WP, showing
that the main search engines do not comply with W3C
accessibility guidelines (Andronico et al. 2008). In this
study, we aim to describe the redesign process of What-
sOnWeb (WoW) (Di Giacomo et al. 2007,2008), a visual
graph based search engine implemented by the Department
of Electronic and Information Engineering of the Univer-
sity of Perugia. WoW is an autonomous application able to
order indexed Web data using semantic nodes in a single
page network diagram. In this way, WoW overcomes the
page scrolling normally required by the reports of the tra-
ditional search engines (Search Engines Report Page),
overpassing the limits of traditional Web information rep-
resentation methods pointed out by Borsci et al. (2008).
The redesign of WoW has been conceived by adopting the
user-centered design (UCD) methodology. With WoW, we
aim to provide a universal online or standalone search
engine by which it could be possible to find information in
A. Rugo (&)G. Liotta F. Trotta E. Di Giacomo
DIEI Department of Electronic and Information Engineering,
University of Perugia, Perugia, IT, Italy
e-mail: alessio.rugo@gmail.com
M. L. Mele S. Federici
CIRID Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Disability
and Technologies for Autonomy,
‘Sapienza’ University of Rome, Rome, Italy
S. Borsci S. Federici
ECoNA Interuniversity Centre for Research on Cognitive
Processing in Natural and Artificial Systems,
‘Sapienza’ University of Rome, Rome, Italy
S. Federici
Department of Human and Education Sciences,
University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy
Cogn Process (2009) 10 (Suppl 2):S286–S289
DOI 10.1007/s10339-009-0317-4
an effective, efficient and satisfying way. We present the
main steps of our project as follows.
1. Reengineering the architecture of WhatsOnWeb.
Currently, in either accessibility rules and guidelines
it is not specified how to reengineer the architecture of
java environments in an accessible way; therefore, we
adopted the international Java guidelines provided by
IBM and Sun, the Java Libraries Java Accessibility
Utilities and the Java Accessibility Bridge. Moreover,
we used an automatic evaluator system called RAVEn
(rule-based accessibility validation environment), an
Eclipse tool for inspecting Java
-based and validat-
ing them for accessibility.
We aim to allow users to
interact with the WoW interface by using any kind of
assistive technology, and we also provide an autono-
mous internal synthesizer Java Speech compliant to
support users if there is no installed screen reader.
2. We focus on information representation for blind
people devising effective ways of interacting with the
system by translating the visualization into sounds.
Sonification is the way to ‘‘represent data relations into
perceived relations in an acoustic signal for the
purposes of facilitating communication and interpre-
tation’’ (Kramer et al. 1997). Among the several
sonification methods proposed in the last years, we
adopted the action-by-design-component (ADC)
framework proposed by Zhao (Zhao et al. 2008), that
provides a newsworthy guideline on how to represent
complex information ‘‘that does not have any obvious
physical space to map to’’ (Card et al. 1990).
3. Extending the WoW ranking algorithm to the W3C
accessibility indexes. WoW retrieves information by
using the WP indexes provided by Google
, as most
search engines do. However, the WP index is based on
an algorithm that does not include the accessibility
factor among the indexing components.
4. Performing a set of evaluation activities to demonstrate
the effectiveness of the approach for visually impaired
people. WoW ‘‘integrates new graph visualization
algorithms that are engineered versions of existing
graph drawing algorithms and introduces a novel
visual strategy for exploring clustered graphs’
(Di Giacomo and Didimo 2008). Currently, sighted
users can interact with four different layouts: Tree-
Map, Layered, Radial, and Orthogonal (see Fig. 1): the
navigation features of the algorithm are independent
from the choice of the layout. In this step, we aim to
analyze the usability of the proposed sonification
system, supervising the interaction of sighted people
with the sonificated layouts.
Activities (1) and (2) are completed. Each phase of the
redesigning process has been consistent to the UCD
First, the decoupling between algorithm and interface
has been implemented. At the same time, we analyzed the
accessibility of the Java code by using a dedicated evalu-
ation software called RAVEn. The pre-existing code has
been reengineered to facilitate the accessibility interven-
tions according to the guidelines provided by Sun and IBM.
We developed a composed architecture to permit interac-
tion by any kind of assistive technology; moreover, WoW
is equipped with an autonomous internal screen reader
which permits to vocalize data even in the absence of a pre-
installed screen reader software.
Second, we implemented the sonification of the visual
map, designed according to the ADC framework (Zhao
et al. 2008). Different innovative sonification models have
been experimented, mapping both spatial information and
application data. For example, in the PanAndPitchScore
sonification algorithm the search result graph has been
mapped as a musical score, where node vertical position
corresponds to note frequency and the horizontal to playing
time. Anyway, the most appreciated sonification algo-
rithms are those which use ‘‘genuine’’ mapping elements:
note frequency to map the yaxis, pan-potting for the xaxis
and the redundant volume information to characterize the
distance of the current focused element. For other appli-
cation information such as ranking, node type, graph level,
other sound features have been used: sound blinking, tim-
bre, chord and so on.
The ingenuity of the spatial mapping enabled an intui-
tive approach in our application, since no training is needed
to understand the consistent geometrical patterns used to
draw the search result graph.
The focus of this extensive experimental analysis is on the
impact that these novel interfaces will have on the cogni-
tive processes of the users. Currently, we completed both
reengineering and sonification phases. The architecture of
WoW has been reengineered by following the UCD
methodology and the W3C guidelines. It has been made
compliant with any kind of screen reader and also has an
internal autonomous synthesizer. Moreover, WoW
WhatsOnWeb: http://whatsonweb.diei.unipg.it:8080/wow3.2.
Cogn Process (2009) 10 (Suppl 2):S286–S289 S287
implemented the sonification of visual maps, designed
according to the ADC framework (Zhao et al. 2008). The
sonification allows the exploration of the concepts network
to be driven by a sound feedback system that represents the
spatial information. The expandable underlying software
architecture may be fully customized to match the user’s
auditory sensibility and preferences, as well as the possi-
bility for the researchers to use the existing platform to
develop new algorithm or modify the actual set. Con-
cerning the (3), extending of the WOW ranking algorithm
to the W3C accessibility indexes, we are working on the
current ranking algorithm of WOW, based only on the WP
index provided by Google
, to take into consideration the
accessibility of the results. Finally, we have designed the
experimental settings for the analysis object of activity (4)
consisting in users’ accessibility and usability evaluations,
in order to assess the distance among the model of
designers and users, and the system image (Norman 1990).
Next step of our project will be to fulfill activities (3) and
(4). The reengineering of WoW will be completed by
implementing and setting in action the new ranking algo-
rithm of WoW. The effectiveness of the reengineered
system for the blind people will be then evaluated
according to the designed experimental settings.
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vision and language: Evidence from allocentric judgments. J Exp
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improving a qualitative and inclusive level of web accessibility’’.
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Fig. 1 Search result layout: aradial, borthogonal, clayered, dtreemap
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... Nodes are related to each other by edges representing their semantic relations.Figure 1 et al., 2007). We used the ADC model to design and test a sonification layout of the accessible visual version of WoW presented in 2009 (MELE et al., 2009; RUGO et al., 2009) to transmit the spatial and semantic information of graphical features and their combinations in an acoustic non-verbal way. We applied the sonification process by combining visual and non-verbal acoustic features in a univocal way.Table 1 shows three different sonification layouts developed by using different combinations of tone, pitch, volume, blinking and grid reference with the z axis representing the spatial position of the graphic objects of WoW, the web ranking of each node, the level of navigation and the type of node. ...
... Nodes are related to each other by edges representing their semantic relations.Figure 1 et al., 2007). We used the ADC model to design and test a sonification layout of the accessible visual version of WoW presented in 2009 (MELE et al., 2009; RUGO et al., 2009) to transmit the spatial and semantic information of graphical features and their combinations in an acoustic non-verbal way. We applied the sonification process by combining visual and non-verbal acoustic features in a univocal way.Table 1 shows three different sonification layouts developed by using different combinations of tone, pitch, volume, blinking and grid reference with the z axis representing the spatial position of the graphic objects of WoW, the web ranking of each node, the level of navigation and the type of node. ...
Conference Paper
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Trata-se de uma descrição do perfil de estudantes universitários sobre o uso de internet e sua influência nas interações presenciais.
... The sonificated version of WhatsOnWeb has been tested on blind and sighted users using the Partial Concurrent Thinking Aloud technique , an evaluation protocol that overcomes the limitations of concurrent and the retrospective verbal protocols for evaluations involving blind users. In this usability study, blind subjects performed better at identifying errors of interaction than sighted people at a task involving spatial exploration guided only by auditory cues Rugo et al., 2009). By making it easier for users with disabilities to map the elements in the interface, sonification significantly improves the accessibility and usability of web interfaces (Mele, Federici, Borsci, and Liotta, 2010). ...
This chapter discusses the relationship between the accessibility and usability constructs and how they relate to the user experience (UX) theoretical approach. We present an integrated model of interaction evaluation, a new evaluation perspective based on UX that is intended to be used as a framework for evaluating users’ interactions with assistive technology (AT) and to organize and evaluate the AT assessment process. The evaluator’s mental model is used to evaluate the relationship between the designers’ and the users’ mental models from objective and the subjective points of view. The new perspective endorsed by the chapter is that the UX concept can be used not only to set up an evaluation of users’ interactions with AT, but also to organize and evaluate the AT assessment process and to design (or redesign) technologies to overcome the barriers to use that disabled users typically experience. The redesign of a sonificated web search engine is presented as an example of the growing need to use a UX-based approach to AT design.
... The sonification model Action by Design Component (ADC) provides users with a dynamic interaction acoustic interface (ZHAO et al., 2007). We used the ADC model to design and test a sonification layout of the accessible visual version of WoW presented in 2009RUGO et al., 2009) to transmit the spatial and semantic information of graphical features and their combinations in an acoustic non-verbal way. We applied the sonification process by combining visual and non-verbal acoustic features in a univocal way. ...
Conference Paper
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In this work, we present the sonification procedure of a visual Web search engine called WhatsOnWeb (WoW) and its usability evaluation. The WoW search engine is based on graphic visualisation algorithms conveying datasets by semantic correlations and clusters through graph-drawing methods. WoW has been developed combining different visual and auditory features in three sonificated layouts that transmit spatial information through acoustic non-verbal events. WoW usability has been evaluated for both visual and sonificated versions with blind and sighted users. Since results show no differences in usability, we conclude that the sonification methodology makes visual content accessible, usable and, therefore, equally learnable for both blind and sighted people.
... In this work, we want to introduce a usability evaluation study of a sonificated version of a search clustering engine called WhatsOnWeb (WoW), an application tool based on new graph visualization algorithms, implemented at the Department of Computer Engineering (DIEI) of the University of Perugia [8]. WoW conveys the indexed dataset using graph-drawing methods on semantically clustered data [9]: the visuo-spatial data representation provides the whole information by conveying it in one single browseable page. By rebuilding the output in graphics mode, WoW's layouts provide what is conversely ordered in any Search Engines Report Page (SERP) where the query outputs are in a top-down hierarchical sequence, starting from the greatest ranking level website to the lowest in several results pages [10,11]. ...
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It is widely accepted that spatial representation is processed by an amodal system. Recent studies show that blind subjects have a better motion ability than sighted people in performing spatial exploration guided only by auditory cues. The sonification method offers an effective tool able to transmit graphic information, overcoming the digital divide risen by a visuocentric modality in which contents are conveyed. We present a usability evaluation aiming at investigate the interaction differences between both blind and sighted users while surfing WhatsOnWeb, a search engine that displays the information by using graph-drawing methods on semantically clustered data. We compare the visual presentation of three different layouts with the sonificated ones, demonstrating both qualitatively and quantitatively that blind and sighted users perform with no significant differences the interaction. These results remark that the digital divide could be decreased by going beyond the visuocentric way of the commonly adopted visual content representation.
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On the basis of a meta-analysis of existing literature about sonification technologies, new experimental results on audio-tactile exploration strategies of georeferenced sonificated data by sighted and blind subjects are presented, discussing: technology suitability, subjects’ performances, accessibility and usability in the user/technology interaction.
Past research (e.g., J. M. Loomis, Y. Lippa, R. L. Klatzky, & R. G. Golledge, 2002) has indicated that spatial representations derived from spatial language can function equivalently to those derived from perception. The authors tested functional equivalence for reporting spatial relations that were not explicitly stated during learning. Participants learned a spatial layout by visual perception or spatial language and then made allocentric direction and distance judgments. Experiments 1 and 2 indicated allocentric relations could be accurately reported in all modalities, but visually perceived layouts, tested with or without vision, produced faster and less variable directional responses than language. In Experiment 3, when participants were forced to create a spatial image during learning (by spatially updating during a backward translation), functional equivalence of spatial language and visual perception was demonstrated by patterns of latency, systematic error, and variability.
Posted 05/23/1992. Reviews evidence for the functional equivalence of spatial representations of observed environments and environments described in discourse. It is argued that people possess a spatial representation system that constructs mental spatial models on the basis of perceptual and linguistic information. Evidence for a distinct spatial system is reviewed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)