social circles - marcos weskamp
"In that Empire, the Art of cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Disproportionated Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds built a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided accurately with it."

Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Del rigor en la ciencia’, 1960

Social Circles intends to partially reveal the social networks that emerge in mailing lists. The idea was to visualize in near real-time the social hierarchies and the main subjects they address. When subscribing to a mailing you never know who the principals are, how many people are listening or what subjects they are talking about. It's like entering a meeting room with plenty of people in the darkness and then having to learn who is who by just listening to their voices.
Social Circles does not pretend to be a statistical application, but rather aims to raise the lights in that room just enough to let you enhance your perception of what’s happening. At a glance it allows an easy way of grasping the whole situation by highlighting who is participating, who is "visually" central to that group, and displaying the topics everyone is talking about. How does the list structure itself? Is it moderated? Is it chaotic?

Mail inboxes, Mail archives, Mail clients that are able to display threaded views of incoming messages are very informative, but not really expressive of the underlying social patterns. Understanding the overall structure of a social group influences the way we might behave and express ourselves inside of that network.

When entering a discussion in meatspace, as contrasted with cyberspace, we perceive an unmeasurable amount of information that affects the way we involve ourselves with that group. Our speech and behavior adjusts with subtle changes in perceived environments. We pause, self-censor and moderate our pattern of communication when entering a conference room with 500 strangers in suit and tie. Similarly we are more relaxed and informal when entering a small bar where social interaction is more colloquial and random.

All of that is not true when subscribing to a mailing list. If we want to understand the inner workings of that group, all we can do is "lurk" and slowly we start associating each name and email addresses popping into our inbox with a topic or a tone until we get a general idea of accepted list behavior: it's protocols, moderators, and group dynamics.

Social Circles does not address all of the above points to perfection - to do so, larger datasets and more powerful visualization algorithms would be necessary. Still, with limited, light data flowing in near real-time from the lists, it is possible to represent the current state of those networks and help users understand the overall structure of them.
how it works
Every 5 minutes, new messages are retrieved from the mail server, parsed, and all relevant data is stripped out and stored in a database. By default, every email we send carries a unique id. In case it is a reply to another email, it also contains internal references to the thread it references. When a dataset of a particular mailing list is retrieved from the database, an algorithm links every message with their corresponding threads and presents a visual graph of that social network.

The rules are: When a message is received, if the sender does not exist in the graph yet, then create it. If it does exist already, then increase its circumference diameter. The more messages from a particular person are found in a dataset, the bigger that person's node will be displayed on screen.

A Key feature for this diagram is the absolute position of each node in the graph. If any other person in the graph replied an email to that particular person, a "visibility" point is rewarded, and the individual node is moved towards the center of the group. Every time someone replies to a mail thread, a line is plotted connecting both nodes, implying there was communication between those two persons. A socially central person in the graph will be the one that sits the closest to the center. The loudest person will be the one with the biggest circumference.

Yi-Fu Tuan – “Space and Place, the Perspective of experience” - 1977

Habitat Perspectivesは、私たちが住んでいるこの「場所」を空間的、時間的に視覚化しようという試みです。ユーザーはGPS付きモバイル機器を装備した参加者が現実空間のなかで移動するさまを、またある場所から画像をアプリケーションにポストするさまをライブで追跡することができるようになります。プロジェクトのゴールは、参加者それぞれの日常の行動パターンの違いが、いかに「街」の捉え方の差異に繋がっていくかを概念的に示すことです。プロジェクトが始動するとき、アプリケーションにはただ黒いバックグラウンドが表示されるだけですが、参加者がコンテンツをポストするたびに、街の地図が、そしてそれぞれの参加者の「場所」が徐々に姿を現してきます。

「空間」「場所」とは何か?実生活の中で「空間」が意味するものは、多くの場合「場所」が意味するものと重なります。このため、「空間」と「場所」という概念の定義は、互いを対比させて考える必要があります。建築家が場所の空間的属性について語ることがあります。同様に彼らは空間の場としての属性についても語ります。もしも「空間」が自由を象徴し、「場所」が安定や帰属を象徴するとしたら、空間が場所に変容する場面はいつなのでしょうか?地理学者Yi-Fu Tuanは場所を、何らかの思い入れが付与された空間であるとしています。空間は私たちがそれをより良く知り、ある価値を付与したときに、場所に変容するのです。



Habitat Perspectivesは、参加者が基本的な指示に従いながら行動パターンをもって場所に意味を付与し、なんでもない空間を「ご近所」に変化させていくさまを視覚化することで、上記のプロセスについて考察をするプロジェクトです。
[ mail at ] まで、機器のスペックとともにご連絡を。それをどうやってHabitat Perspectivesに繋げられるかは、私たちにまかせてください。私自身は AU の A54010CAを使っていて、このアプリケーションに情報をポストできるようになっていますが、他の機器であっても大丈夫なはずです。それから、このプロジェクトは他の街でも展開していきたいと思っているので、あなたが東京以外に住んでいても問題ありません。
concept, design & frontend coding:
  Marcos Weskamp

backend coding
  Marcos Weskamp
  Dan Albritton

[2003-12-26] - published
[2004-01-01] - featured at's ArtBase
[2004-02-01] - finalist at flash in the can festival
[2004-05-06] - DYI social circles published