It is often unsatisfactory for me to imagine a connected network without having some image or diagram to look at. Therefore I got the urge to visualize the network of my del.icio.us tags, as well.
- a small circle for each of the 95 combinations of 51 tags,
- a small square for each of the 130 web page bookmarked,
- a figure for each of my 62 blog postings of last year;
- I connected the tags and bookmarks by solid lines,
- I used dotted arrows to link from posts to quoted pages
- and fed the edgelist into a program that offers “graph-theoretic” layout.
Gazing at the result (after minor cosmetic changes), I was amazed that, despite of the complexity, patterns became visible that could be color-coded and labeled by the major tags.
Of course, the brain is not such a simple 2D cartographic structure. But some analogies come to mind: the tags’ network reminds me of wide-strechting dendrites, and the blog links might be thought of as the axons that carry the stimulus (of an interesting web page) to these dendrites (and to the tagged knowledge “repositories”).
The simple cartographic plot has also another advantage: when I try to dismiss its limitations of flat, spatial, orientation and try to imagine more general relationships, I realize that I am not comfortable with these other, “starship”-like, visualizations: I also fed the edgelist into a hypergraph, but I end up feeling “lost in space”.