We are 34 days away from the CETIS conference. On day two I have signed up to a session on Social Network Analysis and Data Visualisation being run by Sheila and Lorna. I’m really looking forward to the session as recently I have been thinking about visualisations, what they mean and how they can be used in the most effective manner and I have found understanding them quite difficult. I am only just getting my head around the area and hope that the session might be a hub for the experienced to share some of their protips. I thought that by airing some of my questions and sharing some favourite resources might be a good way to get the tips rolling in and a conversation going before the event. I guess that everybody at the session will have his or her own interests and questions and I would be interested to know what these are.

Tips please

Some of the questions I have:

  • When are visualisations useful, when are they not and what makes a good visualisation?
  • When is a visualisation more then a bunch of lines connecting things?
  • What models sit behind the visualisation?
  • How do you find and validate good data, particularly data about social networks?
  • What are the most effective ways of visualisation, any tips on development environment?


I’d also be grateful for any resources you think might be useful. I’ll start with two I’m working with at the moment.

  • A github repository belonging to Adam Cooper with examples to find emergent trends and “weak signals” in paper abstracts.
  • A handy book that aims to “introduce the principles of statistics and modern statistical analysis for a non-mathematical audience”. Does it well and introduces R at the same time.

Looking forward to the session and a protip from me:

Categories: Uncategorized


Sheila MacNeill · January 18, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Hi David

This is exactly the kind of thing we’ll be discussing in the session so thanks for confirming that’s what you want to talk about:-) We’ll also be sharing some CETIS data, so I’ll be in touch off line about that too.


Adam · January 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Hi David-

I quite liked this site when I found it – http://flowingdata.com/ – which inspired me to
1. start using Inkscape to tidy up the plots produced from R
2. buy his book, “Visualise This”, which is fairly lightweight in some respects but IMO shows a good blending between statistical and presentational perspectives.

Cheers, Adam

David · January 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I also have ‘visualise this’ which I think has a good overview of tools used from different perspectives and the work flow between them.

I agree its not very meaty but its a good introduction, also get you thinking about your strengths (I’m not a Adobe products kinda guy).

Martin Hawksey · February 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Hi David – I’ve found the general area of data driven journalism as a good in for this area. Sites like http://datadrivenjournalism.net/resources have lots of useful resources. If you haven’t see it Geoff McGhee’ Journalism in the Age of Data documentary is very useful in getting some context for the area http://vimeo.com/14777910

Finally this quote sticks in my mind:

“Graphs can be a powerful way to represent relationships between data, but they are also a very abstract concept, which means that they run the danger of meaning something only to the creator of the graph. Often, simply showing the structure of the data says very little about what it actually means, even though it’s a perfectly accurate means of representing the data. Everything looks like a graph, but almost nothing should ever be drawn as one.” Ben Fry in ‘Visualizing Data’

Meaning something only to the creator if perfectly valid if it helps them understand the bigger picture, but you’ve still got to find a way to communicate the result. This helped me with the OER Vis work http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2011/07/13/the-inverted-pyramid-of-data-journalism-part-2-6-ways-of-communicating-data-journalism/


#CETIS12 Social Network Analysis & Data Visualisation: Past, Present and Future #ukoer #infovis Presentation – MASHe · February 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm

[…] around distilling data into stories so there is a lot to learn/borrow from this area. Second, David Sherlock (CETIS) kindly blogged about the conference session which includes some questions he would like answered (most of these questions were asked at Tony […]

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