Innovations in Visualization

Visual Backchannel

Marian Dörk
Daniel Gruen
Carey Williamson
Sheelagh Carpendale

This is a joint research project with the CUE group at IBM Research.


Visual Backchannel is a novel way of following and exploring online conversations about large-scale events using interactive visualizations. Microblogging communities, such as Twitter, are increasingly used as digital backchannels for timely exchange of brief comments and impressions during political speeches, sport competitions, natural disasters, and other large events. Currently, shared updates are typically displayed in the form of a simple list, making it difficult to get an overview of the fast-paced discussions as it happens in the moment and how it evolves over time. In contrast, our Visual Backchannel design provides an evolving, interactive, and multi-faceted visual overview of large-scale ongoing conversations on Twitter.

Open Demo


Visual Backchannel during Earthquake in Chile 2010 Visual Backchannel for Park(ing) Day 2009 Visual Backchannel during VisWeek 2010 (24-29 October, in Salt Lake City) Topic Streams are composed of stream-like shapes defined by two cubic Bézier curves People Spiral with varying number of participants Image Cloud with 16 (left) and 100 (right) images


Download video: MPEG-4 (39 MB) Flash Video (40 MB)


Marian Dörk, Daniel Gruen, Carey Williamson and Sheelagh Carpendale. A Visual Backchannel for Large-Scale Events. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proceedings Information Visualization 2010), 16(6):1129-38, November-December, 2010. PDF Paper Video File