Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
University of Earth

1992

Atlas of International Relationship Networks

Status

- / -


Annex 2 of Visualization of International Relationship Networks



In the light of information and software packages acquired during the visit to North America in February 1988, two distinct approaches can be envisaged (possibly with some common elements): In summary, the approach (a) is dependant on negotiation with corporations for the necessary funds and might require some 12 months to complete once such funds had been received. Approach (b) is dependant on UIA being able to interlink and use the software. This needs further investigation. 

A. PRODUCTION PHASES AND PROBLEMS

In the case of either approach, the following distinct phases (and problems) can be distinguished:

1. Reformat UIA data: In order for the available software to process UIA network data the latter must be converted to a different format. This should not present any major difficulties and can be done using Revelation.

2. Segmenting UIA data: Only one of the software packages detected is suited for networks in excess of 400 points (and a revised version will only be available in September 1988). Most have been developed for 255 or less. Even such small networks can require very large amounts of computer time on micro-computers. (Some large networks are now being analyzed by methods necessitating the use of the so-called super-computers). It is therefore necessary to investigate various techniques for splitting the UIA data into a number of separate segments, preferably corresponding to distinct "maps" in the Atlas. Two approaches to this are: (a) use of some network analysis facilities to detect suitable segments (despite the computer time problems) or (b) use of UIA subject codes or similar devices to split up the data.

3. Network analysis: Given a suitable number of points there does not appear to be any problem in analyzing the network. The initial problem is rather one of deciding which combination or sequence of software routines to use in the many available packages. This would require some preliminary investigation and testing. The following groups of packages may be usefully distinguished.

3.1 Group A: Social network analysis: The packages detected and obtained include: A summary of the key characteristics and restrictions of these packages is presented in Annex A. In contrast to the usual difficulty in such situations, in a number of cases it is possible to switch flexibly between routines in different packages to benefit from particular advantages. The constraints on this, and learning how to benefit from such advantages, need to be discovered. A key factor is the efficiency of the software, which may depend on the computer language and the algorithms used. It is appropriate to note that the level of academic competition amongst the producers of the above packages is high, even though they are not normally distributed on a commercial basis.

3.2 Group B: Statistical analysis packages: The specialized packages in Group A in many cases incorporate routines selected from the large range of statistical programmes commercially distributed in well-known standard statistical packages such as: Indeed it is common practice to prepare some analyses with Group B packages for use by routines in Group A packages.

3.3 Group C: Special application packages: A completely different approach, necessitating a form of network analysis, is taken by some graphics or design packages.

Of special relevance are: 4. Calculation of map coordinates 5. Map plotting
6. Labelling points

The problem of labelling points on a network graph has not yet been clarified. Various options are however available. The challenge is to do this in a way which enhances the quality of a map.

B. HARDWARE CONSIDERATIONS

1. The quantity of computer power required to analyze and plot large networks, especially in an interactive environment, has forced many such applications onto large computers and, just recently, onto super-computers. Thus Levine's Corporate Interlock Atlas was produced using a main frame, and Klovdahl's sophisticated graphics were produced using a specialized Evans and Sutherland graphics terminal. These are not feasible options for the UIA, nor are they economically viable.

2. Over the past few years, much network analysis and graphics has been developed on microcomputers compatible with those of the UIA (i.e. IBM compatible). The problem here is two-fold: Whilst major increases in speed can be obtained from faster machines of this type, little can be done about the memory constraint without (considerable) adaptation to the software.

3. An alternative route is through the use of the latest generation of Apple computers (e.g. the Mac II), which can use much larger memory, are very fast and have good graphics capacity. The problem is that relatively little network analysis software has been written for this environment (with the possible exception of STATVIEW) and it is not clear whether the IBM-based packages could be easily recompiled in this environment.

4. Whichever approach is selected, an appropriate plotting device is required, whether in the form of a plotter or a laser-writer.

C. PROVISIONAL CONCLUSIONS

1. There is every possibility of producing some kinds of maps from UIA data, as indicated by the presentation already available.

2. The IBM compatible packages should be investigated to determine more clearly the possibilities and constraints and whether or not they are adequate for a prototype product possibly in conjunction with routines from packages such as STATGRAPHICS.

3. Parallel investigation should be made of special application packages such as PADS-PCB, CASE and CAL which may prove more attractive or offer alternative modes of representing or interacting with the data.

4. Parallel consideration should be given to obtaining corporate sponsorship for a specially written software package to facilitate this approach, preferably in the light of the above investigations and the need to maximize comprehensibility of the individual maps.
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