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Visualising networks (Activity 2.5)

Visible to anyone in the world

This part of the module materials brought up the memory of a time when research projects I was doing had small elements of SNA - Social Network Analysis. (See the International Network for Social Network Analysis for more on this.) Dating from before Facebook was even thought of wide eyes, SNA involved making computer maps of people's connections. I expect the ones we drew up would look very clunky next to the visualisations linked to in this part of the module. 

I also thought vaguely about social capital. Although this is more widely known in the Robert Putnam version, I prefer Bourdieu's more nuanced version. (I think I better write a separate blogpost about this, as I will need it for my own students smile)

At first I felt a bit stuck about the exercise. I do have a Twitter account but it's so old that I don't want to go back to it. I had decided to open a new one when the module starts officially - that seems like a good moment to begin tweeting.

I thought about exploring my Facebook connections, as Tony Hirst does. This could be interesting, since my Facebook contacts are a pretty diverse bunch. I have some far left buddies - one or two of whom I became friends with on Facebook and have never had a connection with outside of the virtual circle. I have some centrist right buddies whom I met in other contexts, and whom I politely try to bring back from the Dark Side (ie Brexit and their self-contradictory posts about immigration). I have an American friend who, after the election of Trump, went from posting pictures of her kids' tea parties to suddenly posting a lot of material about race politics and feminism, and a Catalan friend - you can imagine what he is posting just now. Some of my friends are from the queer communities, and post sexually exploratory art. Others are mums I know from school, they post pictures of nights out with their friends. Some of my cousins post art-y photos and others post photos of their dogs and one posts art-y photos of her dog. 

Facebook post of baby elephant chasing birds

Another difficulty was that when I looked at the visualisations and network maps, I found them beautiful but impossible to read. I've remarked previously that I am very text-oriented. I felt this irresistible tendency to think 'so?' as I was presented with lovely collections of images and lines radiating out everywhere. (Cheeringly, Tony Hirst himself remarks in the blogpost Socially Positioning Sherlock "THe question is: what’s this actually useful for?" big grin)

I determined to take part though. I used my brother-in-law's band's twitter name to see what the Portwiture app would produce.

Screenshot of Portwiture visualisation for @PeatbogFaeries

Lovely! (Means nothing to me - but looks great big grin Incidentally, they are on tour just now, if you fancy going to see them. Check their website for details.)
  • Did the visualisation reveal anything surprising?
Perhaps something more personal would surprise me more. This was such a melange, it didn't seem to have any meaning. Plus the pictures are so small, it's quite hard to see them.
  • Could you think of ways you might use a visualisation like this in your presentation?
TBH - no big grin
  • What else would it need to do to add benefit?
Have words! (In Katy Jordan's poster mapping academic networks, I was rushing over the diagrammes to get to the conclusion where she summarises her findings, so that I could understand what was going on in the pictures.)
  • Did you have any concerns about what could be found about the networks of others using these tools?
... mixed All of this data is in the public realm, so ... not really. I don't think my Facebook friends would mind my knowing what they like, as long as I like their posts some more. That is one aspect of Facebook. You are supposed to get yourself liked a lot and try to develop a meme that goes viral, not hide who you are and what you enjoy. (Except from advertisers. I have so far successfully hidden what I like from advertisers, who have resorted to advertising wrinkle cream and dog food for me cool)

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Anita Naoko Pilgrim, Saturday, 13 Jan 2018, 12:49)
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