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ComAbstracts Visual Communication Concept Explorer Table of Contents Electronic Journal of Communication

User's Guide to the VCCE - Section 4: Orientation

User's Guide to the Visual Communication Concept Explorer (VCCE)

4. Orientation to the VCCE's displays and commands

Before we get to the examples of how to use the VCCE, it is useful to know what the various displays of the VCCE look like and what the commands basically accomplish. From now on, you can click any thumbnail images (small pictures) to see the full image.

4.1 Main window

The first thing you'll see when you start the VCCE is the main window, which has an orange menu with black writing in it. The main window menu should always be visible no matter what other VCCE windows are open. Inside the main window will be another, pink, window with a list of concepts in it. This is the concept menu window. It starts be default when the VCCE is started, but you can close it if you wish. The main window menu, the orange bar with black writing in in, has four items in it: New, Configure, Window and Help. Since the top orange and black menu controls almost everything in the VCCE, we'll start there. When you click on one of the four items you bring up grey submenus.

4.1.1 Main Window Menu item: New

The New menu item is where you'll start all the searches that you do with the VCCE. Every other menu item in the top menu either alters the display characteristics of your search results, or provides you with help. So this is the starting point for using the VCCE most of the time. New means "start some kind of search", and allows you to search for concepts (using the Concept analysis menu) or authors (using the Author analysis menu). You can also Exit the program from here.

4.1.1.1 New -> Concept analysis

When you put the mouse over Concept analysis a sub-submenu will open with three choices: Specify any concept, Select from list, and Random concept. You can see demonstrations of how these can be used below. The most common way to start a search is to use the Specify any concept choice, which opens a small window.

Specify any concept means "open a text entry window so that you can type in a concept and then see its connections to other concepts." This is how you'll probably start most searches. When you click on Specify any concept you see a new text entry window open up.

Select from list means "open the concept menu window so that you can double click on a concept and display its connections to other concepts." As noted above, this is actually the big pink window which is open by default when you start, but if you've closed it and want to get it back, this is the command to do it.

Random concept means "pick a concept at random from the concept menu window list and display its connections to other concepts in a concept network window."

4.1.1.2 New -> Author analysis

Author analysis means "open a text entry window so that you can type in the name of an author and then see their connections to other authors." This is the other way you'll start searches. When you click on Author analysis you see a new text entry window open up.

4.1.2 Main Window Menu item: Configure

Configure means "choose the way information about concepts or authors, like number of concepts or dates etc. are displayed in the concept or author network." This is one of two places where you can choose how information is displayed, the other being buttons at the top of concept network windows or author network windows. The same functions are available in the Configure menu as in the buttons at the top of concept network windows or author network windows, but the difference is that changing the preferences in the Configure menu globally changes the displays of every concept network window or author network window to look the same. If you want different looking displays in different concept network windows or author network windows, you should use the buttons at the top of individual windows.

4.1.3 Main Window Menu item: Window

Window means "choose the way the windows of information are displayed on the screen," such as overlapping or tiled, maximized or minimized. These choices work exactly the same way as they do in the Window menu of most operating systems with graphical user interfaces, such as Microsoft Windows, MacOS, or the various X-Window systems (e.g. Gnome, KDE) available for Linux. For more information about how these commands work, you can look up the terms in the built-in help of your operating system.

4.1.4 Main Window Menu item: Help

"Help" means "display basic information on how to use the mouse in the VCCE, how to use the concept network windows or author network windows (the first three choices) and some information about the CIOS and the program itself (the last three choices)." The first three choices are most helpful in the program itself (the last choice briefly outlines what the program covers and credits for it, rather than actual 'help'). If you need quick orientation to what you're seeing in a concept network window or author network window, and what effects choosing various commands does, the analysis of concept networks (details) and analysis of author networks (details) are the place to find it. The using the the mouse within an analysis window item describes how the mouse lets you interact with the concept or author clusters, such as what items are clickable or draggable and what the left and right mouse buttons do.

4.2 Concept network windows or author network windows

Concept network windows or author network windows have a background with a large repeating CIOS logo on a sort of 'paperback' textured background. Layered on top of the background are one or more clusters of words with lines drawn between them. The words and lines will initially be moving around, with the outer words circling the central concept which, or author who, you have chosen. Movement is there both to promote interactivity--left and right clicking words--and to differentiate the look of the VCCE from other, static, database interfaces. The word you have chosen will be in the center, surrounded by a 'constellation' of concepts that have been linked to it. When you type in or click on another word, another cluster of concepts will spring up, connected to the first cluster. Any word you choose will be highlighted in red, the rest will be black.

In the example above the concept chosen is "emotion," written in red and roughly in the center of the cluster. The length of the lines between "emotion" and other words roughly indicates how closely the two are related. In this example the shortest line is between "emotion" and "televised," indicating that these are the most closely co-occuring concepts in the databases. This is borne out by the number "17" in red which appears next to the middle of the "emotion-televised" line, which refers to the number of co-occuring items in the databases (you can turn these numbers on and off by clicking the Show frequencies button, see 4.2.1). The other words, for example "reactions" and "support," have co-occured less (13 and 9 times respectively). There are, of course, likely to be more articles etc. in the literature in which these and other concepts co-occur, and perhaps with frequencies that are different to those listed in the VCCE, but you now have a rough idea about the relative co-occurence of those concepts.

Author networks look similar to concept networks.

 

There are five buttons at the top of every Concept network window or author network window. As noted above, these replicate the functions in the Main Window menu item Configure, but only for this particular window. The buttons are Show frequencies, Show history, Number per cluster, Zoom in/out, and Resume/Freeze.

4.2.1 Concept/author network window button item: Show frequencies

Show frequencies means "display how many times two concepts have been linked as a number on the line that connects the concepts." What will change is the display of red numbers in the middle of each line connecting the central concept to a related concept. The button itself does not change state to indicate that you have the display of frequencies turned on or off, it always says Show frequencies no matter how often you click it, so you have to check the display itself. By default ten co-occuring concepts are displayed (or more precisely 'up to ten' co-occuring concepts are displayed because a concept may not co-occur very frequently).

4.2.2 Concept/author network window button item: Show history

Show history means "display one of three kinds of years associated with these linked concepts: first use, latest use, and median use". When clicked, the Show history button changes state to indicate what kind of history information is being shown. The four states are: Show history: off, Show history: first occurence, Show history: most recent occurence, and Show history: median occurence.

4.2.3 Concept/author network window button item: Number per cluster

Number per cluster means "display a maximum of 5, 10, 15, or 20 words surrounding a concept (if there are that many)." You can change the number of co-occuring concepts surrounding your central concept by clicking on the Number per cluster button, choosing up to 5, 10, 15, or 20 co-occuring concepts. The number of concepts displayed is determined by their frequency of co-occurence. So, for example, the five concepts with the most co-occurences with the central concept will be shown when Number per cluster is set at 5. Of course, the more concepts you have displayed the more cluttered your display will be, and some concepts may co-occur only rarely. When first exploring a concept, most researchers will probably want to click the Number per cluster button until it is set at 20, to see as many linked concepts as possible, but in general it is easier to work with fewer concepts on the screen, especially when you have multiple clusters on the screen.

4.2.4 Concept/author network window button item: Zoom in/out

Zoom in/out means "enlarge or reduce the size of the text." There are nine sizes of text, which look like they range from approximately 8 point through around 14 point, with various levels of bolding applied. This option is probably most useful to zoom text out when you're displaying lots of text, for example three concepts with 20 words per cluster.

4.2.5 Concept/author network window button item: Resume/Freeze

Resume/Freeze: This button will read either Resume or Freeze at any one moment in time. Resume/Freeze means "make or stop the clusters of words moving." So when you initially start a window and the clusters are moving, you can choose to stop this movement by clicking the Freeze button on the far right hand side of the window, or let it go on. When you Freeze the clusters, the Freeze button will change to read Resume instead. However, sometimes the two will get mixed up. The important thing to remember is that the button on the far right hand side of a Concept network window or author network window will make or stop the clusters of words moving. If the clusters aren't doing what you want, just click on that button regardless of what it says.

4.2.6 Movement of, freezing, moving, defining and deleting concepts

The cluster will be moving around at first. Intially the movement will be fast, with the co-occuring concepts fanning out around the central concept, and then this will stabilize into a 'gentle waving.' You can stop this movement by clicking the Freeze button on the far right hand side of the window, or let it go on. If you let the movement continue and move your mouse pointer over a word, the thesaurus function will display other versions of the word (and sometimes specially co-occuring words) if they appear in the databases. The example shows what happens when you move your mouse pointer over the concept "cognition."

To do most work you will want to freeze the movement, because it makes it easier to grab and move concepts around to get them into spaces where you can click on them, or group them in their own clusters according to your preference. You can move the words around as much as you like, but they will always remain connected to the original central concept by a line. That line can never be severed. The example above shows that when you freeze a cluster, you can then grab (by moving your mouse pointer over a concept, clicking and holding the left mouse button) and move (by dragging the concept around while you hold the left mouse button) a concept, stretching the line. This often makes it much easier to see the different versions of the word, and also to bring up menus etc. without covering over the rest of the cluster.

4.2.7 Contextual menus

Whenever your mouse pointer is over a concept, you can right click to bring up a contextual menu. These menus are different for concept network windows and author network windows.

4.2.7.1 Contextual menu for concept network windows

For concept network windows the contextual menu has the following four choices: Delete, Search, Authors, and Define.

Delete means "remove the concept from the cluster for the rest of this session." Once you have deleted a concept you can only retrieve it by repeatedly clicking the Number per cluster button until it reappears. You use delete to remove concepts that you are not interested in from your map, reducing screen clutter.

Search means "search the databases for the items that contain co-occurences of this concept and the central concept."

Authors means "search the databases for authors who have written about this concept." This brings up a window containing a cluster with the concept in the center surrounded by a constellation of authors.

Define means bring up the built in dictionary meaning of this term. These definitions are intended to be quick thumbnail sketches of the meaning of the term.

4.2.7.2 Contextual menu for author network windows

For author network windows the contextual menu has the following four choices: Delete, Search, Concepts, and Locate. In this orientation, we will deal only with Delete and Define, as Authors and Search are the primary referencing functions of the VCCE, as opposed to things you can 'physically' do with concepts. Authors and Search will be explored in section 5.

Delete means "remove the author from the cluster for the rest of this session." Once you have deleted an author you can only retrieve it by repeatedly clicking the Number per cluster button until the author's name reappears. You use delete to remove authors that you are not interested in from your map, reducing screen clutter.

Search means "search the databases for the items written by this author."

Concepts means "search the databases for the items written by this author." This brings up a window containing a cluster with an author in the center surrounded by a constellation of concepts.

Define means bring up the built in dictionary meaning of this term. These definitions are intended to be quick thumbnail sketches of the meaning of the term.

Locate means search selected databases for affiliation and contact details for this author.

4.3 Search windows

4.3.1 Internal search windows for linking to external databases

When you ask the VCCE to search for something in an external database, you will first see an orange search window with several options. This example shows the choice to search the ComWeb MegaSearch database for a combination of three concepts. The options in the searhc window should be reasonably self-explanatory to researchers used to traditional research database systems.

4.3.2 External search screens (belonging to external databases)

After you have used an internal searhc window, depending on what you've asked for, the VCCE may then often call up a web-browser window and let you choose more options for searching the chosen database. This example shows a full text search of the CIOS Resource library. These windows will look like regular CIOS database screens. Note that at this point you may either have the VCCE running in another web-browser window, or you may be running entirely within one web-browser window. If you're running entirely within one window, make sure that you don't accidentally close your web-browser window when you've finished a specific search external to the VCCE, otherwise you'll lose your VCCE session and have to start again.

4.4 Result windows

When you've explored a concept or author network and performed a search, you might end up with results such as article references, an actual article, or contact details. These will be in web-browser windows and look like regular CIOS pages. This example shows the start of an EJC article found via the VCCE.


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