II.6 History Flow Visualization of the Wikipedia Entry on ‘Abortion’

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Martin Wattenberg

Fernanda Viégas

Designed by artist and computer scientist Martin Wattenberg and computational designer Fernanda B. Viégas, the History Flow visualization technique helps reveal complex records of contributions and collaborations. Among other uses, it can be applied to show the evolution of documents—e.g., Wikipedia entries created by people all over the world. This map shows the edit history of the Wikipedia entry on “Abortion.” A list of color-coded contributing authors to this entry is given on the left. The graph in the middle shows the History Flow visualization where each version of the entry is represented by a vertical line, sorted in time, from left to right. Text contributed by a specific author is represented as a color-coded, horizontal band. Bands are coded by thickness according to the length of the text contributed to a specific version. The right column shows the entry as of April 20th, 2003, at 5:32p.m., color-coded according to the author of the final edit. As the map illustrates, the page has been edited by many different authors and has survived several complete deletions.


Viégas, Fernanda B., Martin Wattenberg, and Kushal Dave. 2004. “Studying Cooperation and Conflict between Authors with History Flow Visualizations.” In Proceedings of SIGCHI, 575-582. Vienna: ACM Press.

Wattenberg, Martin and Fernanda B. Viégas. 2006. History Flow Visualization of the Wikipedia Entry “Abortion.” Courtesy of Martin Wattenberg, Fernanda B. Viégas, and IBM Research. In “2nd Iteration (2006): The Power of Reference Systems,” Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, edited by Katy Börner and Deborah
MacPherson. http://scimaps.org.

Acknowledgements: This exhibit is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0238261, CHE-0524661, IIS-0534909 and IIS-0715303, the James S. McDonnell Foundation; Thomson Reuters; the Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center, University Information Technology Services, and the School of Library and Information Science, all three at Indiana University. Some of the data used to generate the science maps is from the Web of Science by Thomson Reuters and Scopus by Elsevier. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.