Dr. rer. nat. Dipl.-Inform. Michael Burch
Email: michael.burch@visus.uni-stuttgart.de

VISUS - Institut für Visualisierung und Interaktive Systeme - Stuttgart


Visualizing Static and Dynamic Relations in Information Hierarchies

Dissertation pdf-Version
A 3D bar chart for displaying support and confidence metrics in a single diagram

A 3D bar chart for displaying support and confidence metrics in a single diagram as color coding and varying heights

The visualization of relational data is at the heart of information visualization. The prevalence of visual representations for this kind of data is based on many real world examples spread over many application domains: protein-protein interaction networks in the field of bioinformatics, hyperlinked documents in the World Wide Web, call graphs in software systems, or co-author networks are just four instances of a rich source of relational datasets.

The most common visual metaphor for this kind of data is definitely the node-link approach, which typically suffers from visual clutter caused by many edge crossings. Many sophisticated algorithms have been developed to layout a graph efficiently and with respect to a list of aesthetic graph drawing criteria.

Relations between objects normally change over time. Visualizing the dynamics means an additional challenge for graph visualization researchers. Applying the same layout algorithms for static graphs to intermediate states of dynamic graphs may also be a strategy to compute layouts for an animated graph sequence that shows the dynamics. The major drawback of this approach is the high cognitive effort for a viewer of the animation to preserve his mental map. To tackle this problem, a sophisticated layout algorithm has to inspect the whole graph sequence and compute a layout with as little changes as possible between subsequent graphs.

The main contribution and ultimate goal of this thesis is the visualization of dynamic compound weighted multi directed graphs as a static image that targets at visual clutter reduction and at mental map preservation. To achieve this goal, we use a radial space-filling visual metaphor to represent the dynamics in relational data. As a side effect the obtained pictures are very aesthetically appealing.

In this thesis we firstly describe static graph visualizations for rule sets obtained by extracting knowledge from software archives under version control. In a different work we apply animated node-link diagrams to code-developer relationships to show the dynamics in software systems.

An underestimated visualization paradigm is the radial representation of data. Though this kind of data has a long history back to centuries-old statistical graphics, only little efforts have been done to fully explore the benefits of this paradigm. We evaluated a Cartesian and a radial counterpart of a visualization technique for visually encoding transaction sequences and dynamic compound digraphs with both an eyetracking and an online study. We found some interesting phenomena apart from the fact that also laymen in graph theory can understand the novel approach in a short time and apply it to datasets.

The thesis is concluded by an aesthetic dimensions framework for dynamic graph drawing, future work, and currently open issues.

If you are interested in this research please read the pdf-version of my dissertation or write an email.