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Wongsuphasawat, K., Guerra Gomez, J., Plaisant, C., Wang, T., Taieb-Maimon, M., Shneiderman, B. (September 2010)
LifeFlow: Visualizing an Overview of Event Sequences
In Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '11). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1747-1756. DOI=10.1145/1978942.1979196 [Published Version]

Event sequence analysis is an important task in many domains: medical researchers study the patterns of transfers within the hospital for quality control; transportation experts study accident response logs to identify best practices. In most cases they deal with more than 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 LifeFlow. LifeFlow scales to any number of records, summarizes all possible sequences, and highlights the temporal spacing of the events within sequences. We conducted two case studies with healthcare and transportation domain experts to illustrate the usefulness of LifeFlow. We also conducted a user study with ten participants which 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.

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