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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Technical Report: Participatory Visualization with Wordle

Participatory Visualization with Wordle

Technical Report #:09-05
Author(s): Fernanda B. Vigas, Martin Wattenberg, and Jonathan Feinberg


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We discuss the design and usage of “Wordle,” a web-based tool for visualizing text. Wordle creates tag-cloud-like
displays that give careful attention to typography, color, and composition. We describe the algorithms used to balance various
aesthetic criteria and create the distinctive Wordle layouts. We then present the results of a study of Wordle usage, based both on
spontaneous behaviour observed in the wild, and on a large-scale survey of Wordle users. The results suggest that Wordles have
become a kind of medium of expression, and that a “participatory culture” has arisen around them.

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