Nina McCurdy


last updated 11/2/2016.

I am pursuing a PhD in computing with a focus on computer graphics and visualization. I am primarily interested in developing visualization tools to help scientists and scholars answer their big research questions and better understand their data. My PhD Advisor is Miriah Meyer. Brief summaries of my research projects are provided below.



Action Design Research and Visualization Design

N. McCurdy, J. Dykes, M. Meyer, BELIV 2016

[Abstract] In applied visualization research, artifacts are shaped by a series of small design decisions, many of which are evaluated quickly and informally via methods that often go unreported and unverified. Such design decisions are influenced not only by visualization theory, but also by the people and context of the research. While existing applied visualization models support a level of reliability throughout the design process, they fail to explicitly address the influence of the research context in shaping the resulting design artifacts. In this work we look to action design research (ADR) for insight into this gap. In particular, ADR offers a framework along with a set of guiding principles for navigating and capitalizing on the disruptive, subjective, human-centered nature of applied design research, while aiming to ensure reliability of the process and design. We explore the utility of ADR in increasing reliability of applied visualization design research by: describing ADR in the language and constructs developed within the visualization community; comparing ADR to existing visualization methodologies; and analyzing a recent design study retrospectively through the lens of ADR’s framework and principles.


The following projects are the result of an ongoing collaboration with several Poetry scholars at the University of Utah, developing visualization systems in support of the close reading of poetry

RhymeDesign: A Tool for Analyzing Sonic Devices in Poetry

N. McCurdy, V. Srikumar, M. Meyer, CLFL 2015

RhymeDesign Interface
[Abstract] The analysis of sound and sonic devices in poetry is the focus of much poetic scholarship, and poetry scholars are becoming increasingly interested in the role that computation might play in their research. Since the nature of such sonic analysis is unique, the associated tasks are not supported by standard text analysis techniques. We introduce a formalism for analyzing sonic devices in poetry. In addition, we present RhymeDesign, an open-source implementation of our formalism, through which poets and poetry scholars can explore their individual notion of rhyme. For more information, please visit

Poemage: Visualizing the Sonic Topology of a Poem

N. McCurdy, J. Lein, K. Coles, M. Meyer, VIS 2015

Poemage Interface
[Abstract] The digital humanities have experienced tremendous growth within the last decade. The majority of success and development within the field has been in the context of developing computational tools that support what is called distant reading — collecting and analyzing huge amounts of textual data for synoptic evaluation. On the other end of the spectrum is close reading — the careful, in-depth analysis of a single text in order to extract and engage as much productive meaning as possible. The true value of computation to close reading is still very much an open question. During a two year design study we explored this question with several poetry scholars, focusing on an investigation of sound and linguistic devices in poetry. The contributions of our design study include a problem characterization and data abstraction of the use of sound in poetry, as well as Poemage, a visualization tool for interactively exploring the sonic topology of a poem. The design of Poemage was grounded in an evaluation of a series of technology probes we deployed to our poetry collaborators, and we validate the final design with several case studies that illustrate the disruptive impact technology can have on poetry scholarship. Finally, we also contribute a reflection on the challenges we faced conducting visualization research in literary studies. For more information, please visit