Social Network Fragments- Layout Examples



The following screenshots were derived during the Layout phase of Social Network Fragments. All of these images focus on one individual's email data - "Mike." As this structure is meant to provide a portrait of Mike, it is easier to understand the structure presented by having some background information about Mike.

Below are a series of screenshots and descriptions intended to provide a basic level of information about what data is being presented, how, and why, and what this tells us about the subject.

The Layout phase allows us to see the evolution of the layout positioning, so that we can visually see the spring system at work, repelling and attracting nodes based on proximity and appropriateness. This is most compelling by watching the evolution as a movie. This movie shows the motion, but it does not show the individual people that are attached at the end of each line.

In the flat images below, we show the final positioning of Mike's world, explaining what the different clusters mean.


In these images, lines represent links between two people and baby names indicate a person. Normally one would see the email addresses of the individuals, but we've used baby names to protect their privacy. It is easy to underestimate the power of these graphs in this form, because it is not personal and the connections do not have personal relevance. This is the reason why Social Network Fragments is a far more powerful tool for the subject than for a stranger. In any case, to explain this technique, we have chosen to present our character Mike.

The following color chart applies to all these images. We color coded the email address by which Mike knew the individual; there are five major colors representing the five major facets that Mike felt his addresses encompassed. Within each major category, we assigned slightly different colors to different addresses, thus you will see some slight variation in the colors. (Bulk refers to mailing list messages.)

Chart key

After the spring system settles in Mike's worldview, we are able to see Mike's worldview, as comprised by a set of small clusters, indicating groups of people drawn towards one another.


This image represents everyone that Mike knows and is aware of. There are approximately 4,000 different individuals spread between some one hundred clusters. As can be seen, there are a few clusters which contain the majority of the people that Mike knows and many clusters that contain only a handful of people.

Note the colors of these clusters. By far and large, each cluster is of a homogenous color - several clusters of blue, for example, show us that Mike knows several clusters of people from school, and that these clusters do not know of each other. In Mike's case, we see that the fragments of his social networks are roughly corrolated with the function by which they know Mike. This separation in Mike's social network makes sense for an individual -- understand that if we were to graph the email communcation patterns at a company, we'd hope to see connections between these different clusters.


By focusing closer into the main region of the above image, we can see a better view of the primary clusters.

Such closeup examination allows us to focus on particular clusters, such as this relatively simple one, an interesting chain of clustered individuals:


Here we see four different clusters of people, each connected by one link. This image is particularly revealing to Mike, who recognizes the individuals who connect these chains of groups of connected people.

Note that the coloring for the majority of these nodes is consistent, with a slight variation in shade occuring in the lower portion. Again, we see that the people Mike knows tend to know each other in the same way that they know Mike.


A complex cluster in Mike's network shows us what happens when a lot of people are known in two different contexts that eventually converge. In the center of this image, we see that Mike's friends (blue) tend to know other of Mike's friends, but that there is some overlap between people he knows from school (brown). We'll revisit this portion of the image in later images.

The cluster in the lower left corner contains an excellent example of "bridge" individuals: two people who know Mike in different ways and who know each other, but do not necessarily know that the other knows Mike. There is a link between the green cluster (people who know Mike through his website work) and the brown cluster. Were Mike needing to keep these identites separate, it would be extremely important that the green and brown bridge individuals not become aware that the other know Mike.


Looking closer at the complex cluster begins to reveal the strucuter of Mike's social network at school and of post-school friends. Here we see that there are twelve links connecting Mike's friends to people he knows from school -- and that clearly there is a strong connection between these two communities.


Color variations within a complex cluster show us where different social settings are mixed together. Here, we see that some of Mike's friends seem to be more aware of people from his school than of his other friends. The occasional blue clusers inside the brown (and the brown clusters inside the blue) are expected in this case. A brown clump inside a blue region indicates that there is a circle of people who all know each other and know Mike, but have ended up knowing Mike's friends better than people from school.

Colors only denote how they know Mike, not how they know each other, thus when we see four or five separate clusters that are all the same color, this only means that those groups are not aware of each other but still know Mike in the same social setting.


This series of images, along with the explanatory movie and the description of Mike are intended to provide the reader with an overview for the Layout section of Social Network Fragments. This layout scheme is the basis for the Visualization phase. The images provided reveal the complexities of data that can be conveyed, but yet these images are not without problems. In particular, the layout fails to properly convey what happens when two unrelated people with shared ties are visually close due to similarities in connections. Given this and other problems, a critique of this scheme is necessary and thus part of danah's thesis.