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Title: Tasks and visual techniques for the exploration of temporal graph data
Author: Kerracher, Natalie
ISNI:       0000 0004 6352 8662
Awarding Body: Edinburgh Napier University
Current Institution: Edinburgh Napier University
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis considers the tasks involved in exploratory analysis of temporal graph data, and the visual techniques which are able to support these tasks. There has been an enormous increase in the amount and availability of graph (network) data, and in particular, graph data that is changing over time. Understanding the mechanisms involved in temporal change in a graph is of interest to a wide range of disciplines. While the application domain may differ, many of the underlying questions regarding the properties of the graph and mechanism of change are the same. The research area of temporal graph visualisation seeks to address the challenges involved in visually representing change in a graph over time. While most graph visualisation tools focus on static networks, recent research has been directed toward the development of temporal visualisation systems. By representing data using computer-generated graphical forms, Information Visualisation techniques harness human perceptual capabilities to recognise patterns, spot anomalies and outliers, and find relationships within the data. Interacting with these graphical representations allow individuals to explore large datasets and gain further insightinto the relationships between different aspects of the data. Visual approaches are particularly relevant for Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA), where the person performing the analysis may be unfamiliar with the data set, and their goal is to make new discoveries and gain insight through its exploration. However, designing visual systems for EDA can be difficult, as the tasks which a person may wish to carry out during their analysis are not always known at outset. Identifying and understanding the tasks involved in such a process has given rise to a number of task taxonomies which seek to elucidate the tasks and structure them in a useful way. While task taxonomies for static graph analysis exist, no suitable temporal graph taxonomy has yet been developed. The first part of this thesis focusses on the development of such a taxonomy. Through the extension and instantiation of an existing formal task framework for general EDA, a task taxonomy and a task design space are developed specifically for exploration of temporal graph data. The resultant task framework is evaluated with respect to extant classifications and is shown to address a number of deficiencies in task coverage in existing works. Its usefulness in both the design and evaluation processes is also demonstrated. Much research currently surrounds the development of systems and techniques for visual exploration of temporal graphs, but little is known about how the different types of techniques relate to one another and which tasks they are able to support. The second part of this thesis focusses on the possibilities in this area: a design spaceof the possible visual encodings for temporal graph data is developed, and extant techniques are classified into this space, revealing potential combinations of encodings which have not yet been employed. These may prove interesting opportunities for further research and the development of novel techniques. The third part of this work addresses the need to understand the types of analysis the different visual techniques support, and indeed whether new techniques are required. The techniques which are able to support the different task dimensions are considered. This task-technique mapping reveals that visual exploration of temporalgraph data requires techniques not only from temporal graph visualisation, but also from static graph visualisation and comparison, and temporal visualisation. A number of tasks which are unsupported or less-well supported, which could prove interesting opportunities for future research, are identified. The taxonomies, design spaces, and mappings in this work bring order to the range of potential tasks of interest when exploring temporal graph data and the assortmentof techniques developed to visualise this type of data, and are designed to be of use in both the design and evaluation of temporal graph visualisation systems.
Supervisor: Chalmers, Kevin ; Kennedy, Jessie Sponsor: Edinburgh Napier University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: EDA ; exploratory data analysis ; datasets ; visualisation ; taxonomies ; task classification