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Visualizing The Core of the Blogosphere


Interactive map of blogosphere. From Hurst. Click to enlargeThere’s been a recent flurry of articles concerning visualization of the web itself, and what such visualization might say about the social networks that live and breathe because of the abilities of the net. This topic is a necessary follow-up, then, to my previous posts on new visualization techniques in web searching.

A conference at UPenn in June 2006 titled The Hyperlinked Society focused on "the effects of digital links on people’s ability to understand and care about their larger society. " The following blurb is from the intro page; the program was quite ambitious:

Most internet users know hyperlinks as highlighted words on a web page that take them to certain other sites. But hyperlinks today are quite complex forms of instant connection—for example, tags, API mashups, and RSS feeds. Moreover, media convergence has led to increased instant linking among desktop computers, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, digital video recorders, and even billboards. Through these activities and far more, “links” are becoming the basic forces that relate creative works to one another. Links nominate what ideas and actors have the right to be heard and with what priority. Various stakeholders in society recognize the political and economic value of these connections. Governments, corporations, non-profits and individual media users often work to digitally privilege certain ideas over others. Do links encourage people to see beyond their personal situations and know the broad world in diverse ways? Or, instead, do links encourage people to drill into their own territories and not learn about social concerns that seem irrelevant to their personal interests? What roles do economic and political considerations play in creating links that nudge people in one or the other direction?

One of the participants at the conference was Matthew Hurst, director of science and innovation for Nielsen BuzzMetrics, a company that analyzes Internet trends for businesses. He has created a series of maps of links among the most popular blogs, producing a unique view of "the core of the blogosphere." (See the article in the April 2007 Discover for more about web mapping.)

The maps help visualize the links among blogs, using size, color, and proximity to denote high linkage. Hurst’s techniques allow for a different type of analysis of blogosphere, finding, e.g., that technology and social-policitcal commentary blogs have the most links (no surprise there)

Hurst is one among many who are using different techniques to produce their maps. Most maps have a fractal-quality to them because of all of the multitude of back-and-forth links. Hurst also maintains a blog devoted to mapping and visualization: see Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media.

To see the interactive map at the top of this post in all its linked glory, click here.