December 6, 1996
Many complex dynamic systems are designed, constructed, and understood as a collection of interacting objects evolving over time. Typical example involves files in the file system, employees in a large organization, and, of course, atoms in a molecule. Our goal is to describe the behavior of the complex systems using visualization methods that show the collective behavior of ensembles of objects and the properties of each object.
We design interactive views for ensembles of objects where each object is shown as a separate view, and the position of each individual view encodes the properties of the depicted object and its relationships to other objects. The state of the system (in time and otherwise) can be changed continuously (producing an animation) or interactively to investigate particular states, transitions between states, and dynamics in time.
We use data on maintenance of a large software system and on spread of infectious diseases to exemplify our approach. The software system can be divided into many kinds of parts. We demonstrate how to understand various aspects of the software system by breaking it up into multiple objects and displaying their behavior over time and over other parameters.