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Pioneering Social Network Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool. When confronted with a complicated and interconnected network, sometimes the only way to analyze it effectively is by looking at the complete graph, the big picture.  That is exactly the goal of the company TouchGraph, which has designed software that specializes in network mapping and graph creation. The software is integrated as a web application, so it is able to take information from web database queries such as search engine results and Facebook friend data. Once the program has collected and analyzed the links between nodes, it sorts them into color coded clusters, showing how the network is structured in a very visually appealing way.

I used TouchGraph to create a visual depiction of my own friend network through Facebook, and I gained an entirely new perspective on the way my friend network is structured and how I interact with the people I know. For example, the program identified that I belong to over 20 distinct social groups. This surprised me, because never before was I able to see not just how I connected to a network, but how all of friends were interconnected as well. Some of these social groups were old friends and colleagues as well, and it was interesting and informative to see how those groups fir into my current network. I was easily able to identify those clusters of friends that lied on the outskirts of my overall network, and were not very attached to my other groups of friends. I was able to take a step outward and look at the interconnections of my friends. I was able to identify friends that are connected to parts of my network that I was completely unaware of.

This type of data presentation is very helpful not only to individuals like me, but also to companies or organizations of any size. This software could be used to identify weaknesses in a chain of command, or any communication network. Additionally, in purchasing the full edition of the software, professionals have access to even more tools that categorize and make sense of more complicated information. For example, it is able to measure whether a link between nodes is positive or negative by measuring network traffic between nodes. This is invaluable in determining whether a group of nodes or an entire network is balanced or not. It is great to find a program that was able to take such complex data structures and display that information in a useable, productive manner.

Link to TouchGraph



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September 2012