Wind and Words
Wind and Words, conceived and built by Impossible Bureau, a niche digital studio, is an interactive data visualization based on a complete dialogue analysis of every episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. It turns every spoken line from all six seasons of the show into a unique interactive experience that allows visitors to explore the characters and the words they speak, their sentiment, and how they interact with others. Launched as an experiment in October 2016, this project an attempt to collect, catalog, and visualize the data from the screenplay of all seasons of the TV Show.
The application takes a minute to download images, but it is worth the wait. Once all the content is downloaded, the immersive app allows users to navigate the interface with seamless transitions between visualizations of the six seasons of the show (as shown above). Once a user selects a season, they are presented with an innovative visualization that shows how the various roles interact with each other from a dialog-point-of-view (see below).
There is a decent amount of animations and notifications that shows how to use the mouse wheel and the arrow keys to navigate around the application. Using the mouse scroll, one can rotate this circular interface, or click on a picture to bring that character into focus. From this screen, users can navigate to adjacent seasons using the left or right arrow keys. Pressing the down arrow key provides an input where users can look at specific terms and their connotations — positive or negative — in each episode of the season.
Once again, one can navigate by clicking around, or by using the arrow keys. There is also a mild and interesting background music that keeps the users' mood in the fantastical world of the Game of Thrones.
Data and Target Audience
Game of Thrones is a hugely successful television series produced by HBO and based on A Song of Ice and Fire novels written by George R.R. Martin. When the current season is airing, users get into work and school every Monday morning eager to discuss what happened on the show the previous night. While much of the talk is about who died in cruel and unusual ways, or who is going to die next, fans are fascinated by the timeless and witty dialogue.
We normally think about interactions between a user and an experience, but the rich interactions between people — in both the physical and digital worlds — is something that is very interesting. These thousands of lines of dialogue spoken over 60 episodes provide a wealth of interactions to look at. This interactive visualization provides interesting new insights into our favorite characters, and the developers push the limits of the browser to craft the transitions to a level we rarely see.
Unlike the novels themselves, spoken dialogues from the episodes are hard to get. This application features more than 300 characters, who speak or are spoken to, with information we collected from the Game of Thrones Wiki. Using the data from the subtitles files (*.srt), help from Amazon's Mechanical Turk and additional manual effort, the analysts at Impossible Bureau have built an extensive database of interactions. The success of the interface and the data visualizations is due to the joint and equal efforts between development, data analysis and design, and the result is a collection of visualizations that are solely based on the script data.
The application works really well in being able to scale from a 13" screen all the way to a 6 x 3 monitor display at the EVL Wall at UIC. It does not work on hand-held displays, although the developers claim that 'it is coming'.
The colors used do not conflict with each other, and works really well with color-blindness requirements as well.
The application works well with mouse and touch enabled devices. However, the need to use a pointing device may make it not as user friendly.
The application is built completely in canvas to allow rendering complex effects with optimal performance. The menu, transitions and visualizations have all been optimized to run as smoothly as any site we've seen. They have given a lot of attention to detail, with the images, animations and content. From the loading ball drop on the landing page, to the movement of the smoke and animation of the natural elements, every action was labored over to represent accurate physics and a consistent atmosphere.
Opportunities for Improvement
The developers, designers and analysts have done a very good job in implementing what feels like an initial version of an application. Having said that, the transitions feel too slow because of the pauses that sometimes feel too long. In addition, there are too many glyphs and animations that makes it hard for the browser to catch up, especially on devices not equipped with state-of-the-art GPUs. There are also opportunities for optimizations that can be implemented in code to make the loading and memory utilization better managed. Finally, there are additional charts and graphs that may be drawn to explore the content from other perspectives. For example, being able to look at the dialogues or classifying content by a wider variety of sentiments may be interesting. Also, being able to look at the underlying data and potentially being able to export it is absent. This may be intentional, but goes against the key concepts we've learned.
The beta application of Wind and Words is a beautiful interactive application by a niche design studio. When interacting with the visualizations, some of our assumptions about characters will be confirmed and some more surprising details will be revealed. Interesting facts are represented for the casual visitor, but the site also leaves room for fans to explore and come to their own conclusions about the characters, and whether they’ll win or lose in the Game of Thrones. Looking at how various characters interact with each other in our favorite fantasy world is a beautiful Christmas gift for every Game of Thrones fan.
Finally, here is a video that shows off some of the features: