MAS965: Social Visualization
Prof. Judith Donath
Assignment 2 - Meaning in Social Networks
Sept 27, 2004

Francis Lam

Sketches. Think about how you can draw lines: they can be thicker, thinner, longer, shorted. They can be solid or dashed, dark or light, wavy, straight or angular.

1. Draw a series of lines they vary along these and other dimension. Write a 1 line description of the type of data you think would be useful to depict with that variation (e.g. what would you try to depict with color vs with angularity etc).

2. Think about the problem we discussed in class about showing people who are physically distant but personally close. If a long thick line is used it may be too prominent. We talked about different solutions to being able to vary the length of a line while maintaining a constant sense of its overall weight or importance. Try sketching 2 or 3 solutions to this problem.

The length of the line is kept to represent the physical distance of two linked persons. I try to depict the personal closeness by varying colors, line properties and using additional icons.

Feld's theory on how networks form is based on a notion of foci in which people participate. These foci can be almost anything, from loosely bounded groups focused on neighborhoods, to the tight groupings of close families. Draw a network of about 20 variously interconnected people, using the notion of foci as the basis for your depiction. Think about how you want to use color, shape and size to represent the interests and circumstances that unite different people. How will you depict the people? Do you want to think about categorizing different types of foci - or depicting something about their strength, etc.?

The above diagram shows a social network of 25 people tied by the notion of foci. Color is used to depict the nature of each focus and the similarity in hues is aimed at representing the compatibility of foci, e.g. Designer's group and Colleagues in a design firm are of similar hues to illustrate the stickiness of two groups. Strong ties are denoted by straight solid lines whereas weak ties by dashed curves. Absent ties, which is a "nodding" relationship as suggested in Granovetter's paper, are depicted by light-weighted weak ties. The multiplicity of ties is shown in the variety of colors in one single line, e.g. the connection between 12 and 13 is based upon the foci of love, interest and work; and the proportion of colors tell how much a focus affects two linked individuals.

Feld and Granovetter's papers, read together, present a model of how information flows within social networks. People with many heterogenous ties have access to a wide variety of information. while those with a small number of homogeneous ties have access to less information, but possible more social support (though Wellman suggests that this varies - and that some people with small, close-knit networks just end up providing a lot of support). Think about how information flows in the network you have drawn. Is it uniform or highly varied? Is it symmetric across links? How would you depict it?

The hypothesis of my social network is that every individual should be of similar physical distance, which means there should be no circumstance of strong ties between two far-off persons. The reason of this hypothesis is to ensure the information flow within the network only affected by the strength and the multiplicity of tie between each member under a confined physical space.

According to Granovetter's theory, more information is transmitted through weak ties than strong ties and absent ties are unlikely to help in spreading information. It is plausible to see that diverse information is gathered in the cluster 8-12, where the ties are more heterogeneous. There is a tendency of information flowing from the peripheral clusters, which are more homogeneous, to the center of the network, which is of higher degree of multiplicity of foci and more weak ties (depicted by the dashed curves in the graph) that act as bridges to channel information towards the group. Another observation from the graph is that denser groups also lean towards having more weak ties, it leads to create an asymmetric flow of information across links - more information appears to move towards the center.

A key person in such a denser group can account for this absorbing effect. Taking the above as an example, person number 8 has six different foci in his ties, and five of them are weak ties. They form an information hub among his close-knitted group. Hence, I would like to argue that a close-knitted group is not necessarily access to less information - if there is a key person who has many bridges connecting to other surrounding groups. On the contrary, this group could be an information center that collects news and circulates them quickly within its highly dependent members.