Global Agenda Council Constellation

By daniel - Posted on 22 January 2011

As a data visualization UI developer, I sometimes feel like (I have) a tool without a problem to solve. That's why when I saw this challenge on, I jumped at the chance to put my skills to good use.

The Global Agenda Councils of Design and Innovation had conducted a survey asking council members which other councils they would benefit from interacting with. For example, members of the Conflict Prevention council indicated that they would benefit from more communication with the council on Humanitarian Assistance.

A weighted matrix of the survey results was provided but there were no details on how it was calculated at the time. Those details are pretty important so I processed the raw survey results using R and then used the igraph library to generate the graph.

From there I set about designing the aesthetics and interaction. The visualization has a lot of standard fare features like drag panning, mouse-over highlighting, and a drop-down box to jump to a particular node. The fun part, though, was using the analogy of energy to highlight nodes.

Dissipating Energy Highlighting

When you click a node, it becomes highlighted with this "energy" that travels outward. The energy is divided between connections depending on the strength of each connection.

The resulting image is more informative because it doesn't only show the connections to neighbors and their neighbors in decreasing steps. Fewer, stronger connections result in less energy dissipation so you can see related nodes that are farther away if there is a strong chain connecting them.

So while the Europe and Central Asia council wasn't too interested in climate change, they were interested in renewable energy and the council on renewable energy thinks climate change is very important.

My entry didn't take first place in the challenge but I did get honorable mention. More than that, though, I was glad to be able to use this technology to build something genuinely useful. I hope the folks at GE and keep it up!