democratizing visualization



communication interfaces

art & design


Is your email archive a good portrait of you and your relationship with others?


with Scott Golder and Judith Donath
  Most tools for handling email archives have focused on the
task of finding either specific messages or the "important" emails. Less attention has been paid to the overall patterns of communication that can be gleaned from the daily
accumulation of messages over time. Nevertheless, the patterns of communication we build up over time are themselves significant. As email archives grow, they become valuable records of people’s relationships.

Themail is a typographic visualization of an individual’s email content over time. Using the content of exchanged messages, it shows the words that characterize one’s correspondence with different individuals and how they change over the period of these relationships. The interface shows a series of columns of keywords arranged along a timeline; focusing on dyadic relationships.


  Visualizing Email Content: Portraying Relationships from Conversational Histories
with David Nguyen and Judith Donath
  PostHistory was my first attempt at visualizing a person's email history. The visualization depicts quantitative aspects of a user's email activity on a daily basis, focusing on questions such as: When does a new person appear in your email history? When does an individual fade out of your email history? How many messages are sent to you personally as opposed to messages sent to lists of people? How strong are the ties in your network (i.e., what is the frequency of contact and how personal are those contacts?). For more information, check out the PostHistory project page.

It was after testing this application with users that I realized the power of visualization as a social artifact. Several PostHistory users wanted to share their visualization images with friends and family for storytelling purposes. This unexpected result helped inspire a new line of research for me: communication-minded visualization.
  Digital Artifacts for Remembering and Storytelling: PostHistory and Social Network Fragments
  Mountain visualizes a person's email archive in terms of all the people with whom this person has been in touch over the years.

The piece is a commentary on the continuous accumulation of email contacts over time and the large amounts of people we are constantly in touch with over email.




    Newsgroup Crowds and Authorlines
with Marc Smith

  Most news browsing interfaces display minimal, if any, information about the authors of messages. When reading a post, users get no sense of the author’s history; how active they are in the particular group, how long they have contributed to the community, in what other conversations they have engaged in the past, etc. Instead, systems for newsgroup browsing tend to focus on the message unit and the message structure of conversational threads. In contrast, Newsgroup Crowds and Authorlines attempt to support social awareness by combining metrics of authors’ activity with data visualization.

Newsgroup Crowds visualizes the population of authors in a particular newsgroup, illustrating and contrasting the interaction patterns of participants within the community. AuthorLines visualizes a particular author's posting activity across all newsgroups over time, revealing patterns of thread initiation and reply that can broadly characterize the roles authors play in Usenet.

  Newsgroup Crowds and Authorlines: Visualizing the Activity of Individuals in Conversational Cybersapces