LifeFlow: visualizing an overview of event sequences

TitleLifeFlow: visualizing an overview of event sequences
Publication TypeConference Papers
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsWongsuphasawat K, Guerra Gómez J A, Plaisant C, Wang T D, Taieb-Maimon M, Shneiderman B
Conference NameProceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems
Date Published2011///
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-0228-9
KeywordsInformation Visualization, overview visualization, temporal categorical data, timestamped event sequences

Event sequence analysis is an important task in many domains: medical researchers may study the patterns of transfers within the hospital for quality control; transportation experts may study accident response logs to identify best practices. In many cases they deal with thousands of records. While previous research has focused on searching and browsing, overview tasks are often overlooked. We introduce a novel interactive visual overview of event sequences called \emph{LifeFlow}. LifeFlow is scalable, can summarize all possible sequences, and represents the temporal spacing of the events within sequences. Two case studies with healthcare and transportation domain experts are presented to illustrate the usefulness of LifeFlow. A user study with ten participants confirmed that after 15 minutes of training novice users were able to rapidly answer questions about the prevalence and temporal characteristics of sequences, find anomalies, and gain significant insight from the data.