Here are some examples illustrating two recent themes of mine, namely:
- Easily-available information reveals all sorts of things about us.
- Graph-based analysis is on the rise.
Pete Warden scraped all of Facebook’s social graph (at least for the United States), and put up a really interesting-looking visualization of same. Facebook’s lawyer’s came down on him, and he quickly agreed to destroy the data he’d scraped, but also published ideas on how other people could duplicate his work.
Warden has since given an interview in which he outlines some of the things researchers hoped to do with this data:
One request I got was someone hoping to study how social connectedness and social networking relates to finding jobs. …
Another request was art historians trying to figure out how artist popularity changes, spreads, and grows over time. …
One group wanted to see how socially connected different regions were and how that relates to disease transmission. Because places like New York and L.A. might be more closely connected than L.A. and a city somewhere else in California.
I don’t have a clear sense whether anybody was proposing to do any serious graph analytics, or if the main interest was in drawing pretty pictures and hoping insight would emerge. At a guess, I’d say it was probably some of each. (Although another Pete Warden post underscores that the act of drawing the visualization involves some analytics of its own.)
There’s other great stuff in Warden’s blog too, such as this simple post on the personal data available about everybody, to everybody, and — here I’m totally digressing from the main topics of this post — a wonderful illustration of why the US gets the best immigrants.
Meanwhile — back on topic — it seems the Israeli military is, quite reasonably, paying attention to Palestinians in the occupied territories post about themselves.
The Slashdot discussion of Warden’s efforts also pointed to something earlier and similar, namely graphical visualization of participation in various open source communities.