In my course about social networks, one of the first assignments asks each student to make a visualization of their personal network on Facebook. Even though all the students are different, there is remarkable similarity in the structure of their personal networks. It is even more amazing that many of these patterns are predicted by pre-Facebook sociological research, such as Scott Feld’s excellent 1981 paper on social foci. Here are some examples of the students’ personal networks.
Below are detailed instructions about how to do visualize your personal network using getnet and Gephi, an open-source network visualization program.
- Go to the getnet homepage. Getnet was created Lada Adamic, building on the work of Bernhard Rieder. For more about getnet, see here.
- Use getnet to create a GML file of your personal network. When using getnet you may check the “sex” box but please do not check the other boxes as this makes the process take a very long time. Even still, it might take A LONG TIME for getnet to complete its work. Please be patient. Once complete please save this .gml file somewhere that you can find it. [NOTE: I BELIEVE THAT FACEBOOK NO LONGER ALLOWS THIS KIND OF DATA ACCESS.]
- Install Gephi. It is open source and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. The download website is http://gephi.github.io/users/download/. These instructions apply to Gephi 0.8.2-beta (the version currently available for download). We have heard reports that Gephi does not work well with all operating system (see e.g., this post). If Gephi does not work on your computer, you can borrow a friend’s computer or do the alternative question.
- Open Gephi.
- In Gephi, open the .gml file that you just created.
- In the “import report” window, set the graph type to be “undirected”, and click “OK” button to finish import.
- Change the Layout (left bottom) to “Fruchterman Reingold” and press run. Once the layout stops changing you can press stop. After trying the “Fruchterman Reingold”, you may explore more layouts.
- Click on the “T” at the bottom of the screen to add labels to the nodes.
- Explore the visualization by adjusting the sliders to change edge thickness and label size. You can also roll over specific points to highlight subsets of edges.
- Make any additional changes to the graph that you want; be creative. Once you are done, export the graph. To do this, click on the preview button at the top of the screen. Select the options that you want and then click the “Export SVG/PDF/PNG” button on the lower right part of the screen.
Of course, now that you have your data in Gephi there are many more things to explore. For more information about Gephi, you can check out:
- Gephi Quick Start: https://gephi.org/users/quick-start/
- Gephi FAQ by PJ Lambertson: http://social-dynamics.org/?p=311
- Blog post on Persuasion about Facebook and Gephi: http://persuasionradio.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/using-netvizz-gephi-to-analyze-a-facebook-network/
Thank you to Han Zhang for helping me prepare this post.