VAiRoma: A Visual Analytics System for Making Sense of Places, Times, and Events in Roman History

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IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics






Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

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Learning and gaining knowledge of Roman history is an area of interest for students and citizens at large. This is an example of a subject with great sweep (with many interrelated sub-topics over, in this case, a 3,000 year history) that is hard to grasp by any individual and, in its full detail, is not available as a coherent story. In this paper, we propose a visual analytics approach to construct a data driven view of Roman history based on a large collection of Wikipedia articles. Extracting and enabling the discovery of useful knowledge on events, places, times, and their connections from large amounts of textual data has always been a challenging task. To this aim, we introduce VAiRoma, a visual analytics system that couples state-of-the-art text analysis methods with an intuitive visual interface to help users make sense of events, places, times, and more importantly, the relationships between them. VAiRoma goes beyond textual content exploration, as it permits users to compare, make connections, and externalize the findings all within the visual interface. As a result, VAiRoma allows users to learn and create new knowledge regarding Roman history in an informed way. We evaluated VAiRoma with 16 participants through a user study, with the task being to learn about roman piazzas through finding relevant articles and new relationships. Our study results showed that the VAiRoma system enables the participants to find more relevant articles and connections compared to Web searches and literature search conducted in a roman library. Subjective feedback on VAiRoma was also very positive. In addition, we ran two case studies that demonstrate how VAiRoma can be used for deeper analysis, permitting the rapid discovery and analysis of a small number of key documents even when the original collection contains hundreds of thousands of documents.