Supporting visual queries on medium sized node-link diagrams


For reasons of clarity, a typical node–link diagram statically displayed on paper or a computer screen contains fewer than 30 nodes. However, many problems would benefit if far more complex information could be diagrammed. Following Munzner et al., we suggest that with interactive diagrams this may be possible. We describe an interactive technique whereby a subset of a larger network diagram is highlighted by being set into oscillatory motion when a node is selected with a mouse. The subset is determined by a breadth first search of the underlying graph starting from the selected node. This technique is designed to support visual queries on moderately large node-link diagrams containing up to a few thousand nodes. An experimental evaluation was carried out with networks having 32, 100, 320, 1000, and 3200 nodes respectively, and with four highlighting techniques: static highlighting, motion highlighting, static+motion highlighting, and none. The results show that the interactive highlighting methods support rapid visual queries of nodes in close topological proximity to one another, even for the largest diagrams tested. Without highlighting, error rates were high even for the smallest network that was evaluated. Motion highlighting and static highlighting were equally effective. A second experiment was carried out to evaluate methods for showing two subsets of a larger network simultaneously in such a way that both are clearly distinct. The specific task was to determine if the two subsets had nodes in common. The results showed that this task could be performed rapidly and with few errors if one subset was highlighted using motion and the other was highlighted using a static technique. We discuss the implications for information visualization.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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Information Visualization






Sage Publications

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Journal Article