On Andris (2016), social networks, and geovisualization

I found this article super interesting, as it discussed the complexities of visualizing social ties over space. I had never thought about 1) the fact that most relationships are thought about at least a little bit geographically but geographic visualization systems have not been able to visualize these dynamics (because they are, as Andris notes, “crude”) and 2) all this data from varying sources being used (possibly) to piece these things together that one takes for granted.

It is also interesting that this is an up-and-coming concept. It did not seem as though Andris was expressly studying social media platforms as much as she was studying the relationships between people expressed through data (through paper, telephone, email, social media platforms). It is incredibly surprising that this is not picked up further. In the big data studies that I have read, it seems as though most studies focus on numbers, the “butts in seats” raw numbers, and avoids connecting this information to the actual users themselves; Andris’s discussions of the nuances of geo-visualizing social networks actually tried to tie people’s digital presences back down to their humanity, which I found refreshing.

Further discussion of the geoviz nuances and making this discussion more “mainstream” in GIScience would be incredibly useful in urban planning or other disciplines that try to bring people together and make life easier for the people they serve. It seems to me that these visualizations have the potential to help decision-makers to do things better by actually seeing these numbers as real people’s real lives and livelihoods– though I do agree/worry with the classmate who posted earlier that this information could also be used nefariously.

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