Attractive Flicker - Guiding Attention in Dynamic Narrative Visualizations

Manuela Waldner*, Mathieu Le Muzic, Matthias Bernhard, Werner Purgathofer, Ivan Viola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Focus+context techniques provide visual guidance in visualizations by giving strong visual prominence to elements of interest while the context is suppressed. However, finding a visual feature to enhance for the focus to pop out from its context in a large dynamic scene, while leading to minimal visual deformation and subjective disturbance, is challenging. This paper proposes Attractive Flicker, a novel technique for visual guidance in dynamic narrative visualizations. We first show that flicker is a strong visual attractor in the entire visual field, without distorting, suppressing, or adding any scene elements. The novel aspect of our Attractive Flicker technique is that it consists of two signal stages: The first "orientation stage" is a short but intensive flicker stimulus to attract the attention to elements of interest. Subsequently, the intensive flicker is reduced to a minimally disturbing luminance oscillation ("engagement stage") as visual support to keep track of the focus elements. To find a good trade-off between attraction effectiveness and subjective annoyance caused by flicker, we conducted two perceptual studies to find suitable signal parameters. We showcase Attractive Flicker with the parameters obtained from the perceptual statistics in a study of molecular interactions. With Attractive Flicker, users were able to easily follow the narrative of the visualization on a large display, while the flickering of focus elements was not disturbing when observing the context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2456-2465
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Visual attention
  • flicker
  • narrative visualization
  • GAZE


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