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ThemeRiver: Visualizing Thematic Changes in Large Document Collections
January-March 2002 (vol. 8 no. 1)
pp. 9-20

Abstract—The ThemeRiver visualization depicts thematic variations over time within a large collection of documents. The thematic changes are shown in the context of a time line and corresponding external events. The focus on temporal thematic change within a context framework allows a user to discern patterns that suggest relationships or trends. For example, the sudden change of thematic strength following an external event may indicate a causal relationship. Such patterns are not readily accessible in other visualizations of the data. We use a river metaphor to convey several key notions. The document collection's time line, selected thematic content, and thematic strength are indicated by the river's directed flow, composition, and changing width, respectively. The directed flow from left to right is interpreted as movement through time and the horizontal distance between two points on the river defines a time interval. At any point in time, the vertical distance, or width, of the river indicates the collective strength of the selected themes. Colored “currents” flowing within the river represent individual themes. A current's vertical width narrows or broadens to indicate decreases or increases in the strength of the individual theme.

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Index Terms:
Visualization, metaphor, trend analysis, time line.
Citation:
Susan Havre, Elizabeth Hetzler, Paul Whitney, Lucy Nowell, "ThemeRiver: Visualizing Thematic Changes in Large Document Collections," IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 9-20, Jan.-March 2002, doi:10.1109/2945.981848
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