Chapter 7. Your Choices Reveal Who You Are: Mining and Visualizing Social Patterns

Valdis Krebs

DATA MINING AND DATA VISUALIZATION GO HAND IN HAND. Finding complex patterns in data and making them visible for further interpretation utilizes the power of computers, along with the power of the human mind. Used properly, this is a great combination, enabling efficient and sophisticated data crunching and pattern recognition.

In this chapter, we will explore several datasets that reveal interesting insights into the human behaviors behind them. Patterns formed by event attendance and object selection will give us clues into the thinking and behavior of the humans attending the events and choosing the objects. Often, our simple behaviors and choices can reveal who we are, and whom we are like.

Early Social Graphs

In the 1930s, a group of sociologists and ethnographers did a small "data mining" experiment. They wanted to derive the social structure of a group of women in a small town in the southern United States. They used public data that appeared in the local newspaper. Their dataset was small: 18 women attending 14 different social events.

They wondered: could we figure out the social structure (today we call it a social graph) of this group of women? To this end, they posed the following questions:

  • Who is a friend of whom?

  • Which social circles are they all in?

  • Who plays a key role in the social structure?

Identifying network structures normally involves invasive interviews and surveys. Would ...

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