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Network Visualization

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A company grows, it shrinks, people come and go. Justin Matejka, a research scientist at Autodesk, visualized the changes for where he works.

The OrgOrgChart (Organic Organization Chart) project looks at the evolution of a company's structure over time. A snapshot of the Autodesk organizational hierarchy was taken each day between May 2007 and June 2011, a span of 1498 days.

Each day the entire hierarchy of the company is constructed as a tree with each employee represented by a circle, and a line connecting each employee with his or her manager. Larger circles represent managers with more employees working under them. The tree is then laid out using a force-directed layout algorithm.

Each second in the animation is about one week of activity, and acquisitions are most obvious when big clumps of people join the company. The long-term changes are a little harder to see, because the branches in the network fade into the background. Recomputing the layout each week might be good for the next round.

[Thanks, Justin]

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How states have shifted

Mike Bostock and Shan Carter visualized how states have shifted parties over the years, going back to 1952.

Recent elections have placed a heavy emphasis on "swing states" — Ohio, Florida, and a handful of other states most-easily swayed from one party to the other. Yet in the past, many more states shifted between the Democratic and Republican parties. A look at how the states stack up in the current FiveThirtyEight forecast and how they have shifted over past elections.

Each row represents an election, and the horizontal axis reflects the size of a lead for a party. So as you scroll down, you can see how much (or little) a state has changed across elections.

Instead of taking the obvious exploratory route, where you select your state and scroll to the bottom, Bostock and Carter took a story-driven approach. Points of interest are on the left. Click on a button and the relevant states for that insight are highlighted. (Although you can still mouse over states to see their paths and keep states highlighted by with a continuous scroll.) This is a good one worth exploring for a while.

See also Adrien Friggeri's interactive from earlier this year that shows Senate agreement.

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The Iliad is an epic poem by Homer with a lot of characters and story lines going on at once. I vaguely remember reading bits and pieces in high school and getting totally lost. Santiago Ortiz explores these relationships in his latest work, which draws on the connections i.e. character sentence co-occurrences.

There are two views. One is a network diagram (above), with characters sized according to number of connections with others, and a matrix view accompanies. The network has sort of a fisheye effect as you mouse over, which I think is there to make it easier to browse, but as it goes with these sort of visualizations, there are still some challenges as you try to get more details or look at smaller nodes.

The second view is a streamgraph, with a stream for each character.

I had trouble getting excited about the content, but it's fun to play around with the interactions.

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Amazon recommendation network

Whenever you look at an item on Amazon, the site recommends related items that you might be interested in. So in a way, these items are connected by how people buy. Artist and designer Christopher Warnow uses the metaphor to create a network of Amazon products, where each node represents an item, and connections, or edges, represent common bonds of recommendations. Simply enter an Amazon link, and Warnow's software generates a network.

For example, the image above is the network for Edward Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information, although Stephen Few's Information Dashboard Design seems to have more connections for some reason. My quick guess is that book's that are less niche have more connections, because when I entered Visualize This, the network was pretty small. Although I would've thought that Tufte's book would have a larger network than Few's.

In any case, the application and Processing code is free to play with. Warnow uses Gephi for network connections and grouping. Or if you don't feel like downloading a 60mb file, you can just watch it in action in the video below.

You might also be interested in Yasiv. It's a web app with a similar idea, but not quite as slick of an implementation.

[Christopher Warnow via Datavisualization]

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From Autodesk Research, Citeology is an interactive that visualizes connections in academic research via paper citations:

The names of each of the 3,502 papers published at the CHI and UIST Human Computer Interaction (HCI) conferences between 1982 and 2010 are listed by year and sorted with the most cited papers in the middle. In total, 11,699 citations were made from one article to another within this collection. These citations are represented by the curved lines in the graphic, linking each paper to those that it referenced.

The interactive repsonds slowly to clicks and only works in Firefox for me, but it's interesting to play around even if you aren't familiar with CHI and HCI papers. It works better if you select one to three generations instead of all. Click on a specific paper and you get citations for that paper on the right (brown) and the papers that the selected cited on the left (blue).

Color-coding for categories, authors, or subject could add another level of meaning to this. For example, do we see the subject evolve? Do papers that focus on a certain subject site outside of the main topic?

[Citeology via infosthetics]

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Digital artist Jer Thorp discusses the algorithm and tool used to arrange 9/11 victims' names based on who they were with when they died. The process started with the collection of data.

Over several years, staff at the 9/11 Memorial Foundation undertook the painstaking process of collecting adjacency requests from the next of kin of the victims, creating a massive database of requested linkages. Often, several requests were made for each victim. There were more than one thousand adjacency requests in total, a complicated system of connections that all had to be addressed in the final arrangement.

Rather than a purely algorithmic layout, the result was an interactive tool that Memorial designers could use to decide what worked best within their framework:

Thorp's last bit is the most interesting part, however:

This project was a very real reminder that information carries weight. While names of the dead may be the heaviest data of all, almost every number or word we work with bears some link to a significant piece of the real world. It’s easy to download a data set — census information, earthquake records, homelessness figures — and forget that the numbers represent real lives. As designers, artists, and researchers, we always need to consider the true source of data, and the moral responsibility which they carry.

[Algorithmic Design and the 9/11 Memorial]

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