Learning Gephi from Zero #4: conceptual networks in Gephi and Arc diagrams

Gephi conceptual network by Pablo Aragon

I have some relatively advanced work on a “universe” of concepts around Collective Intelligence. Many very different politics surface in a collective intelligence space, from a Brexity “Will of the People” to Zapatista inspired swarming strategies. Mapping out these concepts has many uses, and potentially it help us navigate the kind of “cognitive slippage” between left and right popular approaches. For any map to be accessible and actually usable for a wide range of people, it needs to be attractive, intuitive and easy to use. Data visualisation techniques seem key here, which leads us to Gephi, and also “Arc Diagram” code which I found through the brilliant Dictionary of the Revolution project.


In the words of the author Pablo Aragon, the above Gephi image shows “an Ego network of depth 2 of the Computer mediated communication article on the English Wikipedia. Edges are links between articles and nodes are sized according to their degree. The network shows relevant concepts related to online discussion.”

For those who are still learning, “Ego networks consist of a focal node (“ego”) and the nodes to whom ego is directly connected to (these are called “alters”) plus the ties, if any, among the alters. Of course, each alter in an ego network has his/her own ego network, and all ego networks interlock” (Source: http://www.analytictech.com/networks/egonet.htm).

Mapping conceptual connections and “semantic webs” through Gephi is an exciting idea, and I am working towards this as part of my visual meta-analysis of Collective Intelligence. This is a classic case of trying to run before you can walk, as I haven’t got the hang of using Gephi at all yet! But this is one place where I want to go. Time is constantly escaping me, but so far I have found one helpful link which I hope will walk me through the steps a little: How to Use Gephi to Visualize Related Entries in Wikipedia

Gephi is not the only useful tool for mapping connections, and I was really moved and excited to find this next project through a Facebook recommendation a year or so ago:

Dictionary of the Revolution from Amira Hanafi

Arc Diagrams

The “Dictionary of the Revolution” was co-created by writer, artist and activist Amira Hanafi, following her experiences in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution – what is referred to in the international media as the Arab Spring. . This is not Gephi. Rather, Arc Diagram code was used to create this brilliant interactive circular dictionary. The English version can be viewed and interacted with here: http://qamosalthawra.com/en
The original Arabic version is here: http://qamosalthawra.com/

Further information in English here: https://amirahanafi.com/post/170077875230/25-january-2018

The above image is a screenshot showing the Arc Diagram structure, linking the words in the “Dictionary of the Revolution”. As you move the cursor over the words in the circle, lines show up between the words that are in direct reference to each other. If you click on a word you are taken to a “definition” for that word, which in reality is a text, an account in relation to the 2011 events in Tahrir Square. It is those texts that define the reference relations between the words. Just as Pablo’s Gephi map had the Wikipedia pages to define the links between terms, Amira has her own set of (inter-related) texts that define the inter- relationships between the words.

Useful (Interactive?) Maps

I have some relatively advanced work on a “universe” of concepts around Collective Intelligence. It would be very exciting to see how Gephi and/or Arc Diagram code could articulate and develop this work further ❤

For example, in discussion with my supervisor Prof Roger Burrows, we developed the idea that my collective intelligence conceptual map could help us navigate the “cognitive slippage” between left and right populism. This is noted in my general PhD blurb, and I am working on a post specifically addressing “Left-Right Political Slipperiness in green and Brexit lands”

Right now, I am at the stage of imagining how my “Collective Intelligence Conceptual Map” could convert into easy-to-use tools, that could actually be useful to people wanting to navigate our current political landscape. Both Gephi and Arc Diagram code require a source “hypertext” that defines the relationships between the concepts. Pablo used Wikipedia as the hypertext for this Gephi network at the beginning of this post. I believe Amira curated (or co-curated) the texts that “define” each word in her circular dictionary. In my research, I am working on a glossary and set of texts that could become a hypertext, but it is a long term project. Starting with Wikipedia as a source hypertext is a good starting point. A way to start understanding the data visualisation techniques better. Now I just have to create the time to really dive in ❤

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