Network visualization is something I thoroughly enjoy, and I am fooled by the ease with which one can manipulate graphs in an application like Gephi. I would like to learn how to take more control of the process for myself — and, with luck, learn more about network theory in the process. For that, I need some graph visualization libraries, and over on Medium Elise Devaux has that covered: List of Graph Visualization Libraries.
With many thanks to my collaborator Katie Kinnaird — I will have to post the Twitter account and link later from which this comes.
- Introduction: Tell me what you’re going to tell me.
- Literature Review: Tell me what everyone else told you, and then in Current Study tell me what they’re missing.
- Methodology: In Data tell me how you got the data and in Analysis tell me what you are going to do to the data.
- Results: Tell me what the data told you.
- Discussion: Tell me again what the data said but in a way that anyone could understand, and then tell me how it’s relevant and how we can apply the findings.
- Conclusions: Tell me what you told me.
- Limitations: Tell me if you had any issue and why they are either/both not your fault and/or trivial enough that this is all still publishable.
It’s fairly reminiscent of the DoD’s Cue — View — Review methodology for instruction.
There is nothing quite like taking the time to respond to a research survey and then finding that your responses have been binned. Such was my experience in answering the 13th “Future of the Internet” canvassing by Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. (To see the full report: URL.)
I post their questions and my answers below.
Considering the things you see occurring online, which statement comes closer to your view about the evolution of digital spaces. (Followed by 5 options.)
First, your questions are both constraining and a little lop-sided, making them very difficult to answer. In the first question you use the verb “evolving,” which suggests that digital spaces are developing some sort of fit to an environment, rather than being the environment themselves. The second question is loaded teleologically: things are either going to get better or worse, not different. While I can hope for better and I can hope for the political will of enough nations that the public sphere will get better, I can rest assured that 2035 will be a different landscape.
On the downward trajectory, we have to face the fact that the infrastructure upon which “digital public spaces” exists is largely in the hands of large corporations and/or nation states who have their own interests. Yes, some sort of tribalism is happening — though I don’t like to use a word once applied (albeit in a somewhat racist fashion) within a somewhat colonial project (anthropology), but, let’s be honest, it’s the colonialist technology that has set the awful ethno-centrist mind virus in motion and we can’t seem to put that genie back into its bottle. (What a terrible mixing of metaphors.)
While it is nor surprise that autocratic states seek to use the public sphere as a surveillance apparatus, it is rather appalling to see just how good a pairing the digital public sphere and autocracy are: the ready feeding of ethnocentric ideas to key groups keeping a larger population whipped into a threshold level of frenzy is impressive in ways that I would rather not be impressed.
That some corporations have benevolent impulses, in the face of capitalist impulses to maximize profits, which again seem to lean into ethnocentrism and autocracy, reveals that there is some hope for us.
Looking ahead to 2035, can digital spaces and people’s use of them be changed in ways that significantly serve the public good?
In a democratic and free society, I can imagine a digital public sphere in which each of us possesses a certified/verified online identity whose metadata and data we control fully. Fake/alternate identities will be available, but they will be clearly marked as such and we will understand that whoever is using a fake/alt ID is doing so for particular reasons. There will still be the ability to fake this new “Real ID” of course, which will have to be overseen by someone, but it will be rare enough, and difficult enough, that it will take a great deal of effort (time and money) to do so. This will not necessarily be a good for refugees, because immigration will now involve being issued a Real ID, but so long as we don’t tie such ID to all forms of commerce, it might be tolerable. Such an infrastructure can only exist, of course, in a benevolent state with no interest in controlling its citizens.
In such a scenario, we might escape some of the weirder/wilder problems of people saying things in the digital public sphere, but, honestly, the people shouting the loudest right now are real people and we can’t know if they actually mean the crazy stuff they say or if they are saying it for attention, power, money, something (e.g., Marjorie Taylor Greene). This scenario won’t avoid such individuals, but it might tamp down the swirl of misinformation created by adversarial state and non-state actors. As a folklorist, I don’t think misinformation is going to go away in such a scenario, because misinformation did just fine before any kind of digital public sphere, and it will continue to do just fine within one, but we might be able to return to something more like a pre-internet moment, in which we were not all seized by the latest bit of misinformation. (To be clear, the “pre-internet moment” was an historical oddity in which mass media dominated the American, and many other, information landscapes.)
This past summer my daughter came with me on one of my stays on post. We did not get to spend as much time together as I might have liked, but we still managed to cook up a crazy ideas, one of which involved the geese on post not being all that they appeared to be. The result was the following:
Duck, Duck, Goose
Lily Wu-Laudun and John Laudun
EXT. NIGHT. The screen is filled with white light that dims and focuses into a pair of headlights as a car makes its way past the camera. A hundred yards past the camera, its brake lights brighten as it stops. A figure only just silhouetted by the headlights pops out of the passenger side door, opens the read passenger door, and lifts something out.
CUT to a pair of hands gently loosing a Canadian goose into the water. The goose swims away. The camera follows and fades into black as the goose disappears into the distance. A car door is heard closing and the car itself is heard, but not seen, speeding off.
EXT. DAY (MORNING). A group of legs and shoes walk past sleeping geese who are only six to ten feet closer to the camera. Voices are heard discussing various matters. Several groups go by and the geese hardly flutter. Some of those groups of legs are camouflaged and are tucked into khaki boots. We are on a military installation.
The camera has been slowly zooming out during this time, taking in more and more of the scene in which groups of civilians and soldiers walk along a handful of sidewalks that wend their way along a grove of trees next to a lake. The geese are scattered in small clumps among the trees and as the shot widens, a few begin to move about.
Most of the geese make their way to the water, but one goose waddles its way toward one of the nearby buildings. People continue to flow by but it’s clear that the flow is slowing as people settle inside the buildings to work.
We see some go into a nearby building, again talking animatedly. We follow a small group of two men and a woman (two civilians and one soldier — mix doesn’t matter) through the open doorway and down a hall into an office. As they move into and through the building, we follow their conversation as well:
CAROL: It’s the damndest thing, Bob. We can’t figure out how they got that information.
BOB: And you’re sure you tracked all our possible emission points?
CAROL: Yes, Bob. We ran down all possible emitters. We even tracked ground lines. Everything. We got nothing.
JERRY: I’m going to ask the dumb question: you’re sure it was hardware and not personnel?
CAROL: The fidelity of their capture was too high. It’s word for word. A person would have made a mistake or changed a word. It’s just how the brain works.
JERRY: Unless you had someone with an eidetic audio memory…
CAROL: Unless we had a number of someones with eidetic audio memories…
JERRY: It could happen.
CAROL: It could happen. (This second echo reveals she does not find this a useful conversational thread.)
BOB: So known hardware configurations. (It’s clear he’s trying to move the conversation back to something productive.)
The conversation fades somewhat as the camera cuts from the series of medium shots that have captured the speakers to a group shot with a window behind the three overlooking the trees and the lake. We see most of the geese in the distance, either still sitting in the grass but one goose is rather close and is preternaturally still.
CUT to a CLOSE-UP of the goose. Its head moves very slowly, and as it does so, we catch a glimpse of a laser coming out of one of its “eyes.” A shot from behind its turned head reveals it is pointed at the room, and as we cut to a tight shot of the laser point hitting the glass (and the glass vibrating) we hear the voices within as their conversation carries on.
VOICES outside and nearby snap us back to our goose, which shakes its head, to the sound of servos, and then proceeds to dip down and pull at the grass, as geese do, while another group of legs walks past.
As the camera fades to black, we hear the voices of that group talking and the rustling of the goose’s feet in the grass with the slightest hint of a servo working.