Paws: using motion to visualize networks that change over time

The Paws project is investigating ways to use motion in visualizing networks that have a geospatial element and also change over time. Motion can be a very powerful way to highlight particular areas of a very large graph, or bring to life the way the graph changes over time. However, the visualization must use motion in a meaningful way that is understood by any viewer without reading a manual. In order to achieve this, we are looking at uses of motion based on two real-world processes: fluid flow through elastic pipes and wave propagation across, say, the surface of a pond. The name of the project, Paws, stands for 'pipes and waves'.

My collaborators in this project are Tim Oates, Marie desJardins, Penny Rheingans and their students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. They are concentrating on the use of waves to capture aspects of the connectivity in a network, while I am concentrating on the use of pipes to capture the structural changes in a network over time, and to provide an immediate sense of interacting with analytical processes on a graph, in particular network flow.

The results of the work on pipes are freely available in KrackPlot 4, a program for network visualization written in java. KP 4 is a successor to KP 3. You can also find slides from project presentations below.

You can download a version of KP4 here.