Multimedia Review: VizAbility by Kristina Hooper Woolsey
PW Publishing Company

Author: Lark Dunham
Haas School of Business
BA 296: The Impact of Multimedia and Networks
October, 1996

VizAbility is a highly structured, dynamic and engaging multimedia title. The goals of tool is to allow individuals to explore and expand their visual and spatial capabilities The program includes both passive instruction and interactive exercises. VizAbility is a great educational and developmental title for anyone who could benefit from exploring issues relating to visual communication. Itıs a wonderful tool for use in corporate and educational environments to aid learning, thinking and creating .

The mission statement of the VizAbility title is described as the following:

These goals are very ambitious, yet the title provides a great deal in striving to meet these challenges. Ultimately, individual interest and expectations will drive the satisfaction of the mission statements for each user. This review will attempt to evaluate the titles success in meeting the goals as outlines in the mission statement.

VizAbility is structured in a highly logical fashion. It is difficult to get ³lost² within the title. It can almost be described as too structured. A tool that is designed to spawn creativity in a visual dimension one would expect to be a bit more random. Nonetheless, the structure does not deter from the true value, the content. This structure also ensures that a bias towards one module or exercise is not introduced.

One begins the program in the Main Menu from which you can jump to each of the six modules by clicking on a visual representation of the modules content theme. There are also audio clips which provides an overall ŒIntroductionı to the title and an ŒOverviewı of the content, which are activated by clicking on the respective words as they appear on the Main Menu, along with Quit.

Once a module is selected, one enters a menu for that module which contains several sub-modules which are represented with icons. These icons appear along the bottom of the screen and consist of the Introduction and examples and exercises which vary depending on the module. Each module has an identical layout, although the content changes. The last four icons that appear along the bottom of the screen are identical from module to module and include jumps to a Notes for documenting ideas, Warm-ups which are simple exercises to get you into the creative frame of mind and Music which allows you to select background music to play while you explore the CD. The Music option is a creative approach which shows the authors appreciation for the use of alternative senses for stimulating visualization. The music choices range from the Samba to Mozart to Rock and Roll, depending on the userıs tastes.

It is always apparent which module or sub-module you are working within. It is also clear how to return to the main menu to explore other modules. Once again, the overall format is extremely logical and easy to follow.

VizAbility is an extremely rich title. There is a lot of information, exercises and examples. The six modules within the title are as follows: Seeing, Drawing, Diagramming, Imagining, Environment and Culture. Each module contains an introduction, an overview of the module and a series of exercises or examples, depending on the subject. Overall, the use of media formats is fairly diverse and includes text, video, graphics, photographs, audio ,3D and 2D animation and interactive capabilities. The interactively is engaged in a number of different forms from selecting responses to questions, moving objects, drawing with the mouse, and providing personal audio.

Seeing - The goal of this module is to increase the userıs visual flexibility and awareness. The module is exercise intensive. Exercises include sketching images after an object flashes on the screen, recognition of a item which has been Œtracedı on the screen, finding hidden pictures within larger pictures, rotating and drawing 3D images to capture different perspectives, and grouping through pattern and rhythms. The most interesting dimension of these exercises is reflecting on how what you know changes the way you look and perceive the object, person or shape.

Diagramming - This module attempts to explore the dynamics of diagramming as a way to capture ideas, show relationships and give visual references. The module emphasizes the role of diagrams as a communication device for conveying ideas, collaboration and bringing ideas to a tacit format. This module is also very exercise intensive. The role of symbols is explored through matching and drawing exercises. The final sub-module provides an opportunity to ŒShow and Tell² your own story through diagrams.

Drawing - Showing what you see is the goal of this module. It also provides exercises which allow you to learn about and try out basic drawing fundamentals such as contour drawing, shading, negative space and perspective. There is more formal instruction in this module relative to the others as well as more opportunities to draw (no surprise). The most interesting dimension of this module is the exploration of negative space which culminates in a gallery of photographs depicting images and landscapes where the negative space is more compelling than the photoıs subject matter.

Imagining - This module is the most abstract of the title. It also is provides the most media variety using photos, rich graphics, audio and even text for both exercises and explanations. The goals are to engage the imagination, learn how to transform complex images, explore brainstorming techniques and discover the value of the ideas. There are exercises to test your ability to visualize spatial relationships. These exercises are extremely challenging, especially for those grounded in a textual world. This module also provides an opportunity to explore non-visual medium such as audio and text (you get to write a haiku). It also gives instruction on different brainstorming techniques. The module concludes with an opportunity to develop your own storyboard, including text, audio and pictures.

Environment/Culture - These two modules are very dialog and instructionally based. They are geared more towards an explaining how to create environments and cultures where idea generating can be fully exploited and propagated. The title incorporates many film clips of individuals providing their input as to the their experiences with the tools explored in the CD as applied to their situations.

Two thumbs up for VizAbility. The title is a fresh and engaging approach towards developing crucial skills for learning and developing ideas. It is refreshing to see an approach that emphasizes the creative human powers to approaching problem solving and concept creation.