Butterfly: An Organic User Interface For Searching Citation Links

Jock D. Mackinlay, User Interface Research Group, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University February 24, 1995


Butterfly is an Information Visualizer application for accessing DIALOG's Science Citation databases across the Internet. Network information often involves slow access that conflicts with the use of highly-interactive information visualization. Butterfly addresses this problem, integrating search, browsing, and access management via four techniques:

  1. visualization supports the assimilation of retrieved information and integrates search and browsing activity,
  2. automatically-created ``link-generating'' queries assemble bibliographic records that contain reference information into citation graphs,
  3. asynchronous query processes explore the resulting graphs for the user, and
  4. process controllers allow the user to manage these processes.

Our positive experience with the Butterfly implementation suggests a general approach for information access, called "Organic User Interfaces for Information Access", in which a virtual landscape grows under user control as information is accessed automatically.


Jock D. Mackinlay joined Xerox PARC after receiving a Ph.D. in 1986 from Stanford University on the automatic design of graphical presentations of relational information. For the last five years, he has been collaborating with Stuart Card and George Robertson on the Information Visualizer (IV), an information visualization application based on 3D graphics and interactive animation.


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