Just a snapshot from my work this week.
With thesis submission day rapidly approaching (next Thursday – finally!), I’m just putting the finishing touches on my network visualisations. Obviously the real thing is higher quality – this is just a screenshot – but what you’re looking at are two things: a) the way in which 135 Perth-based food bloggers network their identities online, and b) the way that Perth food bloggers link to each other via blog rolls. (Tracking the comments on blogs would have been more useful, but I have run out of time to do it.)
I’ve also got overlays that show the links between their Twitter & Facebook pages, as well as how they all fit together.
The text is very small, but basically I use a coded system to designate each individual (for example, if my blog was in there it would be ‘bw’ – beyond words – and then my linked Facebook page would be ‘bw.fb’, and my Twitter profile ‘bw.tw’, and my Urbanspoon profile ‘bw.us’ and so on). I’ve done this for a number of reasons; partly, it was to keep the labels for each node short, so that they didn’t take over the graph, but also to add a degree of anonymity to my results (rather than saying Blogger X links to pages w, y, z), which allowed me a degree more freedom with my study (i.e. not having to get signed permission forms from everyone on the list).
None of my research in any way discusses content on any particular blog; everyone whose work is directly featured in my thesis (such as quotes from blog posts) has granted permission for me to use that information. Everyone else is just a dot, and a link.
Blogs are represented by black dots; aqua represents Facebook; blue is Twitter, etc. I found that bloggers link to sixteen different social platforms (including social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, social recommendation sites, and social curation sites) from their blogs (in order from most popular to least): Urbanspoon, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, Foodgawker, LinkedIn, Posse, Yelp, Last.fm, Tastespotting, Tumblr (blogs that were hosted at Tumblr didn’t count towards this; if they did, Tumblr would come just after Google+, but I counted them as blogs for the sake of consistency), and Vimeo.
I haven’t included platforms like BlogLovin’ on here. I was going to, but in the end was having such problems with it at the time of data collection that I left it out. I’ve also undoubtedly missed some platforms. I used a site called IssueCrawler to get the initial links from blogs. Basically, I uploaded a list of URLs (i.e. all the blog URLs), and the returned results consisted of a spreadsheet with every URL linked from the blog’s main page. I checked everything manually a few times, as the IssueCrawler results weren’t perfect (some blogs appeared to have no links outwards, which proved to be incorrect based upon my double-checking).
I also checked everything a few times to make sure that I had the most accurate sample possible. A major challenge came in the form of collecting the sample group. Not all blogs h
One thing that I am hoping to do in the future if I have time is to create a dynamic visualisation of posts, which will plot the occurrence of blog posts across a period of time (back to about 2004, as I think that’s when the earliest post from this group was made) corresponding to the restaurant/cafe/location they blogged about, placed over a map of Perth. I’m not sure how I will treat home-cooking/recipe posts, but these could possibly be plotted as well, although not to a location (maybe by theme or primary ingredient).
Blogs are somewhat of a passe subject these days, but I’m quite fascinated by how the medium has persisted. We have all these other ways to communicate, as the social platform links attest (for instance, 51% of the group has a linked Urbanspoon profile, 49.5% a Twitter accounts, and 47.5% a Facebook page dedicated to their blog). However, blogs offer the opportunity for longer-form expression that few other platforms allow at this stage. (Newer platforms like Medium are changing that as they straddle the boundary between blog space, collaborative environment, and SNS.)
Because I’m specifically looking at Perth, these links just serve to demonstrate how closely knit the Perth food blogging community is (and, by extension, how close other online communities are). My research focuses on the ways that place identity can be encountered and expressed via locative and location data, so the crown in the jewel of my research is a much bigger map that looks at how Perth bloggers and social media users have talked about Eat, Drink, Perth over the past four years.
The decision to research that particular festival wasn’t entirely arbitrary; there are important, undeniable links between food, geography, identity, and community that are vital to my research, so EDP has been a useful vehicle for exploring local networks in more detail. I’m still working on finalising that visualisation. However, it’s taking a loonnnng time. I’ve collected the geographic coordinates for every EDP event from 2010-2013, as well as (I think?) every online news article, tweet, and blog post about EDP. (Probably not all; there are limitations. For instance, I have no access to private data, such as protected tweets, nor did I want access to them for this project as I am only looking at information that is publicly available. In addition, EDP/Show Me Perth remove content from their website and Facebook page every year before launching the new event. The Wayback Machine was somewhat helpful, but there’s no doubt I’ve missed stuff.)
All that information is being plotted on an incredibly complicated network visualisation that I will share here once it’s done. The graph corresponds to the geodata I’ve collected; for instance, all posts about the Butcher’s Picnic link to the node for that event, which is located (on the map and IRL) in Northbridge Piazza. There are also different levels of links for comments, trackbacks, and different colours utilised to represent different years of the festival. Fun!
a basic example of how the main network visualisation is structured — bright green: event location (geolocated on a map). teal: events held at that location during one edp year (in this case, three; this is just a dummy example, there may be more/less in a given year). purple — blog posts about specific events. red: bloggers (the actual blogs). if you look closely here, this network depicts ‘blogger a’ as having written both of the blog posts (purple nodes); ‘blogger b’ was linked to in the mad hatter’s tea party post (there’s a tiny arrow pointing out from that node to the ‘blogger b’ node). imagine this, hundreds of posts over, for four years…
It actually is very fun. It’s just super frustrating and time consuming getting the data to appear in a way that is logical and informative, rather than just being a splash of colour on the screen that isn’t really any good for telling a story.
I’m thinking once I’m done with everything and have a spare moment, I’ll publish a list of Perth food blogs/Facebook pages/Twitter profiles on here, in case anyone is interested. I’ll also have high-resolution versions of my visualisations available too.