PA-X Timeline Progress

This is the second post in a series of blogs about data visualizations of PA-X, a database of peace agreements created by the Political Settlements Research Programme at the University of Edinburgh.  This blog was originally published on the PA-X Visualization project website.

With the PA-X timeline nearly complete, I’ve decided to reflect on how well it embodies the characteristics the PSRP team and I identified as key to the PA-X data visualizations. These characteristics are extensible, customizable, and shareable.

Extensible: the timeline can accommodate new data without significant changes to the code files I’ve written. If PSRP adds peace agreements to PA-X, up to three changes will need to be made:
(1) Change the data source file to the newly exported CSV file.
(2) Add the new years to the start year and end year drop down lists on the left-hand side of the visualization webpage (if the new CSV file contains agreements that are signed before 1990 or after 2015).
(3) Add the new country and entity names to the two country/entity drop down lists on the left-hand side of the visualization webpage (if the new CSV file contains agreements that were signed by new countries or entities).
The timelines’ axes, the count and proportion calculations, and the size of the timeline visualizations are determined by the data source file, so those will adjust to new data automatically.

Customizable: Thanks to the PSRP team’s continuous feedback this summer , I’ve created dynamic timelines that are responsive to end-user (i.e. political settlements researchers, peace process participants) needs. The filters and color coding of the timelines visualize categories relevant to current PSRP research: human rights, gender, transitional justice, power sharing, political institutions, and agreement stage. The metrics visualized on the timelines are consistent with metrics PSRP researchers use to analyze peace processes: daily and yearly agreement totals, and yearly proportions of agreements that address selected codes. Users can choose to visualize categories individually or in combination, enabling comparisons or aggregations of data across time, location, and category.

Shareable: This characteristic is still in the works. Data visualizations created with D3.js (the JavaScript library I’m using) can be exported as a static graphic, so I’ll soon implement an export feature. The timeline will live on a webpage, so users will also be able to share the dynamic visualizations as URLs.

What began as a single PA-X timeline has actually become multiple PA-X timelines: one oriented horizontally and three oriented vertically. The horizontal timeline supports the analysis of trends in peace agreements.

PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_Chronology___01_01_2000-31_12_2015
The horizontal timeline displaying peace agreements signed in the 2000s. Each vertical line represents an agreement.
PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_Chronology___01_01_2000-31_12_2015 copy
For days on which multiple agreements were signed, the agreements’ lines shrink and are stacked on top of one another. For example, on 27 September 2012 there are nine lines for the nine agreements signed that day.

Users can filter the agreements it visualizes by time, location and category. For the location and category filters, users can choose to view any agreement that addresses at least one of the filters they’ve selected, or only agreements that address all filters they’ve selected.

PA-X_Selecter
The time, location, and category (“code”) filters. PA-X has agreements signed by countries all around the world from the year 1900 through the year 2015. The visualization can filter PA-X by eight codes that address categories of human rights, power sharing, political institutions, transitional justice, and gender.

The horizontal timeline groups agreements by day and year. With the daily grouping, users can hover over each agreement to view its core information, or hover over a daily group to see the total count of agreements signed on that day.

PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_CountPerDay__EpsMpsPolpsTerps_01_01_1990-31_12_2015
A bar graph of the total agreements signed on each day from 1 January 1990 through 31 December 2015.
PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_CountPerDay_tooltip
Hovering over a day’s bar displays a tooltip with the total number of agreements signed on that day.

With the yearly grouping, users can hover over each agreement to view its core information, view the total count of agreements signed each year, or view the proportion of agreements each year that address the codes they’ve selected.

PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_Yearly__EpsMpsPolpsTerps_01_01_1990-31_12_1999
Horizontal timeline displaying all agreements worldwide signed in the 1990s that address power sharing. Each horizontal line in the yearly stacks represents one agreement. The timeline shows the total count of agreements per year above each stack.
PA-X_HorizontalTimeline_Proportions__EpsMpsPolpsTerps_01_01_1990-31_12_1999
The horizontal timeline displaying the proportion of agreements signed in the 1990s that address power sharing. The proportion is calculated as a yearly percentage of the number of agreements that address power sharing out of the total number agreements. The agreements that address power sharing are black; the others are gray.
AgreementDetail_BasqueCeasefireStatement
When hovering over agreements on the timelines (vertical and horizontal), details about the agreement are displayed in a left sidebar. The details include links to the agreement document and the complete PA-X coding details for that document, which can currently be found at peaceagreements.org/search.

The vertical timelines supports the comparative analysis of peace agreements across different locations. Users can select one location to view per vertical timeline, all three of which users can filter by the same categories as the horizontal timeline. Additionally, the vertical timelines color-code the agreements by stage.

PA-X_VerticalTimeline_Colombia__01_01_1900-31_12_2015PA-X_VerticalTimeline_Bosnia and Herzegovina__01_01_1900-31_12_2015PA-X_VerticalTimeline_Northern Ireland__01_01_1900-31_12_2015

PA-X_VerticalSelecter
Three vertical timelines displaying all peace agreements signed between 1990 and 2016 for Colombia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Northern Ireland. In a left sidebar, the vertical timelines can be filtered by the same eight codes as the horizontal timeline. A legend below the “Select Codes” dropdown explains which Agreement Stage each color represent.

As the final step to my summer’s data visualization work with PA-X, I’ll integrate the timeline visualizations with a map visualization that Mengting Bao created. The map visualizes the geographic distribution of agreements: the map has a symbol for each agreement on the country that signed the agreement.  Each agreement’s symbol is a flower with eight petals (one petal for each code the PSRP team asked us to visualize).  Once the timeline and map visualizations are integrated, a user will be able to hover over an agreement on the horizontal timeline or on the map to see its details in the left sidebar.  Users will be able to filter the map using the same time, location, and category filters as the horizontal timeline.

In my next post I’ll summarize the complete PA-X visualization webpage, timelines + map!

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