Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reaction: Balancing Systematic and Flexible Exploration of Social Networks

The recent exponential growth of social networking applications (such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.) geared me to have different expectations of what I would encounter as I began to read this paper. I soon became to discover that the paper was actually about a tool to visualize social relationships between large nets of people.

Perer and Shneiderman have come up with a nifty tool that has proven itself useful for multiple applications. SocialAction adds substancial functionality to grouping over sorting a list by attributes. I was a bit more interested in what the functionality of SocialAction was like so I checked out their website where they provide a video of the mapping of US Senators from the two major political parties. The examples presented in the paper and on their website show how easily cluttered social networks can become, but the application is highly dependent on having a large set of data in order to be able to show any meaningful relationships. Overall, I think the developers did a great job of noting these limitations and providing users with options to manipulate the visualization in order to create different views for relationship insights.