Connections, changes, and cubes : unfolding dynamic networks for visual exploration

Benjamin Bach 1
1 AVIZ - Analysis and Visualization
Inria Saclay - Ile de France
Abstract : Networks are models that help us understanding and thinking about relationships between entities in the real world. Many of these networks are dynamic, i.e. connectivity changes over time. Understanding changes in connectivity means to understand interactions between elements of complex systems; how people create and break up friendship relations, how signals get passed in the brain, how business collaborations evolve, or how food-webs restructure after environmental changes. However, understanding static networks is already difficult, due to size, density, attributes and particular motifs; changes over time very much increase this complexity. Quantification of change is often insufficient, but beyond an analysis that is driven by technology and algorithms, humans dispose a unique capability of understanding and interpreting information in data, based on vision and cognition. This dissertation explores ways to interactively explore dynamic networks by means of visualization. I develop and evaluate techniques to unfold the complexity of dynamic networks, making them understandable by looking at them from different angles, decomposing them into their parts and relating the parts in novel ways. While most techniques for dynamic network visualization rely on one particular type of view on the data, complementary visualizations allow for higher-level exploration and analysis. Covering three aspects Tasks, Visualization Design and Evaluation, I develop and evaluate the following unfolding techniques: (i) temporal navigation between individual time steps of a network and improved animated transitions to better understand changes, (ii) designs for the comparison of weighted graphs, (iii) the Matrix Cube, a space-time cube based on adjacency matrices, allowing to visualize dense dynamic networks by, as well as GraphCuisine, a system to (iv) generate synthetic networks with the primary focus on evaluating visualizations in user studies. In order to inform the design and evaluation of visualizations, we (v) provide a task taxonomy capturing users' tasks when exploring dynamic networks. Finally, (vi) the idea of unfolding networks with Matrix Cubes is generalized to other data sets that can be represented in space-time cubes (videos, geographical data, etc.). Visualizations in these domains can inspire visualizations for dynamic networks, and vice-versa. We propose a taxonomy of operations, describing how 3D space-time cubes are decomposed into a large variety of 2D visualizations. These operations help us exploring the design space for visualizing and interactively unfolding dynamic networks and other spatio-temporal data, as well as may serve users as a mental model of the data.
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Benjamin Bach. Connections, changes, and cubes : unfolding dynamic networks for visual exploration. Human-Computer Interaction [cs.HC]. Université Paris Sud - Paris XI, 2014. English. ⟨NNT : 2014PA112083⟩. ⟨tel-01020535⟩

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