Data Visualisation: World’s Facebook Friendships

On: December 14, 2010
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About Philip Man
Technology should be centered around a meaningful experience: understand behaviour not technology, think people instead of device and. Don’t make products, make experiences. Like Huxley said, “to give organizations precedence over persons is to subordinate ends to means.” Technology changes fast, but people do not. The fun part does not happen in the device, but on the road from the screen towards the mind. The challenge is to understand the user’s motivations; what drives him or her, culturally and psychologically? People often don’t know what they want until you show it to them. My main ideas involve developments in new media technology and I am particularly interested in how new media is inherent to new ways of communicating, to what extent that requires and generates new kinds of data and how this can be used to improve relations between people. I like the challenge of difficult problems and to act as an idea catalyst /


Wondering what a visualisation containing a few dozen million friendships on Facebook would look like?

Paul Butler thought of the same and took a shot. He says that visualizing data is like photography. Instead of starting with a blank canvas, you manipulate the lens used to present the data from a certain angle. Local friendships was of particular interest. He was interested in seeing how geography and political borders affected where people lived relative to their friends. The result is an amazing looking data visualisation showing the density of Facebook friendships all around the world’s cities.

The US and Europe have, as expected, a high density of Facebook friendships. The BRIC countries are rising, except for China and Russia. The China story is obvious (and have alternatives like QQ) and Russia seems to have some big competitors such as Vkontakte. Huge amounts of transnational friendships are made. Facebook is the only network at the moment that really has a global reach and is in this sense an absolute globalizing machine.

Seeing an awesome visualisation like this immediately gives you an idea of how Facebook and online social networks are occupying the world’s relationships. Reading textual data on this matter would be unmanageable and inconceivable, but an image like this could spark instant realisation. Read his fascinating journey in making this cool visualisation here.

Let this be an inspiration for all the students that take the Information Visualisation Project next semester.

A gaze at the high res here.

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