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Visualizing social media

by on June 10, 2009


Social media is ubiquitous now. With more 200 millions registered users now on Facebook, visualizing the large amounts of connections between online friends is a challenging information visualization problem. Infovis researchers have proposed various approaches to visualize these large connectivity graphs in various ways. Here are a few of those techniques and some of the other approaches that have been seen online to visualizing social media.

Read after the break.

Visualizing Stumbleupon users and their friends


Vizster – visualizing of a network of friends from friendster. This paper by Jeff Heer and Danah Boyd was one of the first to explore the benefits of visualizing a network of friends.
The conference paper link – http://jheer.org/publications/2005-Vizster-InfoVis.pdfvizster-zephoria

The HCI lab at University of Maryland has done some very interesting work for visualizing social networks to deduce information for national security etc. Here is a representative paper from the group - Balancing systematic and flexible exploration of social networks, A Perer, B Shneiderman – IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2006. shneiderman06

Nathalie Henry whose research on matrix-based representations and their readability led to some interesting work in visualizing social networks. Here is a paper that visualizing social networks using such a framework. NodeTrix: a hybrid visualization of social networksN Henry, JD Fekete, MJ McGuffin – IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2007. Here we can see the social network of Ed Chi, an information visualization researcher.

Dumpster by Golan Levin, Kamal Nigam and Jonathan Feinberg is an interactive online visualization that attempts to depict a slice through the romantic lives of American teenagers. It is truly fascinating to look at the interactive visualization and appreciate the design choices.

Wefeelfine.org by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar is another amazing interactive visualization that allows users to interact and visualize feelings that are expressed in blogs. I could see this being easily extended to twitter since there is now a more live stream of feelings that people seem to share in 140 characters. The top image shows a screenshot that shows a geographical visualization of people who are now feeling better whereas the bottom image is a screenshot which depicts the same data categorized by age. You really have to interact with the data to appreciate the wonderful visualization. Visit wefeelfine.org [Note - It didnt work for me when I used Google chrome, but worked with Internet explorer.]


Twitter visualizations

With the advent of twitter, there is no way that all the wonderful research in visualizing node-link diagrams would not be applied to twitter connections. Here are some examples:
- Twitter browser by Neuro productions – Here is a screenshot showing a few of my twitter followers and their latest tweet.twitter_browser


There has been some exciting research in visualizing the rich data that Facebook has generated. Project Palantir is one such project where they are attempting to visualize aspects of Facebook. Visit the project page to find more information - Visualizing Facebook interactions – Project Palantir.

Please feel free to add other social media visualizations that caught your eye.