MAS 965 : Social Visualizations
Tripti Gore Chandorkar

Assignment 8 - Project Proposals

Proposal 1: Social Networks in MIT Libraries

I got interested in this particular topic because of my ongoing background research for my graduate thesis and my developing interest in studying the dynamics of information flow and emergence of interesting patterns of relationships in communities/organizations through social network analysis.

The social interaction of students and faculty with librarians in academic institutions is probably at its minimal today with the presence of the Internet and digital libraries & documents. Due to the easy access of tremendous information on the Internet, students do not feel the need to refer to librarians. But librarians and other library science scholars maintain that the information received from the Internet may not always be correct and that information mediated through them is always an accurate way to get access to relevant sources. Social networks have been studied to be the most efficient medium of information transfer in the development of communities. I would like to study how social networks in institutional libraries can be instrumental in information dissemination. So even though we as members of the institutional libraries may not feel the need to consult the library human resources, it would be worthwhile to present a diagram of the network of resources and information that exists in MIT libraries that all the members of the community could potentially get access to.

The facets of the libraries that I would like to study and use to create a social network diagram are:

The library structure – the central departments (Office of the Director and Administrative) and the individual libraries (Humanities, Dewey, Rotch etc.)

Librarians working in each of the discipline libraries (Rotch, Dewey, Humanities etc.). The domains of the librarians and the connections between librarians of different libraries.

What are the topic interests of each librarian? Who are the subject experts?

Other library staff and their connection to a particular library or library service (Document Services, Digital Library Research Group etc.).

Identify library staff members working in more than one services department at a time.

The links of a particular library with faculty members and students/teaching assistants can be established through the course readers on reserve and the background of students working at the front desk of the libraries.

How do the libraries and different academic departments form links due to these connections?

I feel that most of the links could be studied through the MIT libraries online catalogue and website. There may be some details, like the background of the students working at the front desk that I would require from the library staff. This social network diagram could be broadened by studying the subject areas of books checked out by faculty members, but issues of privacy and confidentiality will make it difficult to attempt this part of the study.

With this social network diagram, I hope to help knowledge sharing, access to the right experts and community building amongst the users of MIT libraries. If this proposal is taken up for the final project, I may have to rethink the scale of the project after considering the time available for the project.

Barabasi, Albert, 2002. Linked. Cambridge,Perseus Publishing.

Bishop Ann Peterson, House Nancy Van, Buttenfield Barbara P., 2003. Digital Library Use: Social Practice in Design and Evaluation,Cambridge: MIT Press.

Freeman, Linton. "Visualizing Social Networks." Journal of Social Structure 1 (2000): 1

Library Stuff. "Distributed Workplaces, Social Networks, and Proposal." September 14, 2004.

Angeles, Michael. "Social software, social networks and analysis." Resource from, no longer available.

Proposal 2: Conversation/Activity Visualization of a Physical Space – Café (Dome Café in MIT Building 3 or a Starbucks Cafe)

This proposal builds on my past assignment on socio-linguistics and sketching groups of conversations:

In this assignment, I made an animation with text from the conversation of a group of friends that I observed. The textual bits were selected from each participant's contribution in the group conversation. The different colors of the text represented the participants, the position of the text on the screen also represented the position of the participant in the room, and the speed and emphasis given to the text denoted qualities of the participant's tone and emotion. As the conversation proceeded the older text sunk in the background with lower visibility.

I would like to build on this concept of textual visualization for a larger scale of conversational environment like a modern day cafeteria. The interesting aspect of a modern day cafeteria is the presence different modes of conversation/communication and types of activities. For example, when I sit at the Dome Café in the Architecture Building at MIT, I see students and faculty interacting with each other across different media. There are students sitting and chatting over lunch, students quietly browsing or chatting online, faculty talking with their students, students engaged in group study etc.

I would observe these patterns over a number of days across the same time period in a day or different time periods and select the words that I can decipher out of various groups' conversations or no conversations (so blank spaces on the screen). Owing to the larger scale of study as compared to my earlier work, the visualization will involve nomenclature of color of text to the nature of activity of groups instead of individuals. The speed, size and emphasis of characters of the text will represent the tone and emotion of the conversation. Visualization of a different time periods would then be superimposed to see a history of events that occurred in the space.

My goal would be to create these visualizations to see interesting patterns of usage of space, study the space environment in terms of areas that are conducive to collaborative work, communication or quiet work-study or online communication, etc. The visualization would tell a story of events that happened in a succession of time periods in the same space.

Other works of interest in the area of textual representation of invisible qualities/connections are: