Coping with Volume and Variety in Temporal Event Sequences: Strategies for Sharpening Analytic Focus

Picture of Fan Du
Fan Du
Picture of Ben Shneiderman
Ben Shneiderman
Picture of Catherine Plaisant
Catherine Plaisant
Picture of Sana Malik
Sana Malik
Teaser image


The growing volume and variety of data presents both opportunities and challenges for visual analytics. Addressing these challenges is needed for big data to provide valuable insights and novel solutions for business, security, social media, and healthcare. In the case of temporal event sequence analytics it is the number of events in the data and variety of temporal sequence patterns that challenges users of visual analytic tools. This paper describes 15 strategies for sharpening analytic focus that analysts can use to reduce the data volume and pattern variety. Four groups of strategies are proposed: (1) extraction strategies, (2) temporal folding, (3) pattern simplification strategies, and (4) iterative strategies. For each strategy, we provide examples of the use and impact of this strategy on volume and/or variety. Examples are selected from 20 case studies gathered from either our own work, the literature, or based on email interviews with individuals who conducted the analyses and developers who observed analysts using the tools. Finally, we discuss how these strategies might be combined and report on the feedback from 10 senior event sequence analysts.