Finally I took the chance to play with the Powerdome at the University of applied sciences Potsdam. It’s a classic 360° planetarium with some high-tech to display live generated content. Perfect for interactive systems. In this semesters course “Immersive Datenvisualisierung” guided by Boris Müller we had the free choice of any data-set we could get our hands on, only premise: make it immersive!
Inspired by the wolfram alpha facebook report which just came out to that time, I decided to play with facebook data. More precisely: Visualize friend networks.
So this is the result: A mixture between intergalactic journey and data-sculpture.
When I first saw the system working, I was pretty blown away how much
these clusters that began to form, visualized exactly the mental model of groups
of friends I had in my head.
So what happens there technically? Summed up roughly, I extracted my own facebook-friendlist via the app giveMeMyData in a machine readable format and visualized it via processing. More precisely: I created a network node for every friend in my list. Gave every one of them a negative force field, so they will always try to seperate. The second rule applied is: If two friends of mine are mutual friends as well, they will attract each other. These two basic rules form clusters of people that know each other and is known as force directional graph.
In the next step I added a bit more information. I read out the affiliations. These are institutions, mainly schools, that people have been to. The more people went to a place the bigger it is. The place’s position in the network is averaged between the peoples positions. And as expected, the friend clusters have a strong connection to the institutions. Also I realized that these places work like cluster-labels. They make it much easier to connect to this otherwise anonymus friend network because all of the sudden it’s put in context.
Did I mention the whole network is renderend as a three dimensional system!? Thanks to Christopher Warnow, it is even distorted correctly, so the illusion is perfect. It feels like standing in the middle of a giant star-field like network system!
But how to navigate this?
Remember, we are in 360° context. There is no left and right, front or back. In the end I decided to use the iPhone and it’s compass function coupled with a bit of gravity information to mesure the direction pointed. So the user can simply point into a direction and start flying. For this I used the app gyrOSC which is pretty handy for getting these data and transmitting it back to the computer.
The following images are some screenshots taken directly from the app. Luckily I got 10 data sets from friends and followers to play with, so we can actually see a variety of different networks.
Thanx again guys!