Gephi and making charts with Facebook data

13 03 2013

Last semester I signed up for a Social Network analysis course with coursera, which unfortunately I never had time to do. This semester, I have reenrolled and have been watching the lectures and starting to play with Gephi with my facebook data which has been fun.

I created this image of my  first visualization.

Gephi - My Facebook data

Gephi – My Facebook data

The big cluster or ‘connected components’ are mainly artists, writers, cultural workers and academics. The cluster up the top is all my Facebook friends based in Central Australia, mainly from Yuendumu. The smaller networks in the middle are friends from school, family and work. The colours refer to gender, green for male, blue for female and not defined is red. The size of the nodes represent the degrees of connection (the friend who has the most friends in common with me), which happened to be good friend  and writer Linda Carroli.

I also came across this link to an article discussing the top 20 data visualization tools which discusses some really cool looking tools and even the tried and true, like Excel.

Information Visualization ‘L’ plater on the loose

30 07 2012

For the last few years, I have been fascinated with the many and creative uses of data visualization. This was sparked by seeing more and more creative and innovate ways of presenting data, especially at events like THATcamp and GovHack. For example, local Canberra impresarios Mitchell Whitelaw, Tim Sherratt and Paul Hagon  have all done very interesting things with a range of national collections.

Of course, Paul Brown has been experimenting with data since the 1970s and is considered one of the pioneers of generative art. I like to add Paul because he is a legend and he included me in one of my first digital art shows in 1999 – SciArt’99 at the Queensland Sciencentre 🙂

For my purposes, I am keen to learn how I can play with SNA and maps, as I am intrigued by the possibilities of creating tools that respond to location and audiences in different ways. Anyway, I am not sure exactly what I want to create – I guess I will find out. I know a little – tools like Processing and Gephi are popular, but at the moment I have little working knowledge of these tools.

In September 2012, I will be taking an online course in Social Networking Analysis,  with Lada Adamic at Coursera, a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. I am really excited and hope to learn some neat stuff. The course outline says:

In this course you will learn about the structure and evolution of networks, drawing on knowledge from disciplines as diverse as sociology, mathematics, computer science, economics, and physics. Online interactive demonstrations and hands-on analysis of real-world data sets will focus on a range of tasks: from identifying important nodes in the network, to detecting communities, to tracing information diffusion and opinion formation.

Sounds fabulous eh! I hope that soon I will have something for show and tell – can’t wait!!

Here are some links to some groovy info vis sites:

How can government innovate with Drupal?

28 07 2012

Earlier this week, I braved the cold, foggy Canberra weather to attend an industry breakfast focused on the open-source content Management System, Drupal, which was hosted by PreviousNext and Acquia. For readers unfamiliar with Drupal – it is a free, open-source content management system (CMS) and content management framework (CMF) written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License. It is used as a back-end system for  many websites ranging from personal blogs to corporate, political, and government sites including and, as well as numerous Australian government sites – see here for complete list. It is also used for knowledge management and business collaboration.

One of Acquia’s founders, Kieran Lal, along with Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) developer Daniel Nitsche, gave an introduction to Drupal to explain how the Australian Government can “Do More With Drupal” at the seminar. A glance around the room was enough to determine that there is a massive amount of interest from government agencies in Drupal, presumably for its possibilities for streamlining both financial and development costs .

I found Daniel’s talk very useful in terms of a practical implementation of Drupal in a large government agency. Some of his comments came as no surprise though – especially regarding accessibility. For example, it is common knowledge that Drupal is more accessible  ‘out of the box’ than SharePoint. What I thought very interesting was the set-up of web developers  in his department (esp as I worked in what was the precursor agency to DEEWR). Apparently in the communications branch, there are 10 Drupal developers doing the entire end-to-end process of development, design and publication. I think this is excellent, but I do think there was an essential element missing in this discussion – the role of content and stakeholders.

There was something quite ‘de ja vu’ about the breakfast, as it conjured memories of going to similar industry events around 7 years ago, promoting MySource Matrix as the great new open source CMS for gov websites. At this event , poor old MySource Matrix was held up as a CMS which is not really ‘open source’ and with limited developer and vendor support, as opposed to Drupal where it was cited that there is about 17,000 tools out there and 19,000 developers. Yup – I am impressed, there is a huge community of people out there who are passionate about Drupal.

Unfortunately, I was less impressed with the talk from Kieran Lal. I appreciate that he has been a key driver in the exponential rise of Drupal but his talk seemed to be pitched at senior managers and CEOs, rather than a room full of  IT and Web savvy people (my assumption). For example, I thought it was a long stretch to talk about different aspects of the Information Architecture featured on the website for Harvard University as a Drupal solution. In fact I found most of the presentation lacking in terms of accessiblity of content and user perspective. Also his discussion about ‘Risk’ was vague and didn’t address what the risks actually were for government agencies considering moving to Drupal. From my perspective, a bit more specific detail would have been very useful as this kind of information could save agencies a lot of time.

I think it is great we have all of this cool online technology, which is flexible, interoperable and not to mention cheap – fantastic!! What is missing from this discussion are the issues around content, audiences and strategy. This is not an observation that is directed only at Keiran, but to many people working in the web space.

At times I find the disconnect between technology and audience needs highly problematic. Yes, government agencies do need to make websites, quicker, more flexible and cheaply, plus comply with the Web Transition Strategy, but audiences also need to understand the content and to find it accessible. This form of accessibility is not about getting 100% on the HTML Validator, it is about ensuring written content is understood by the audience.

IT News published an article about the breakfast which offers more detail about the DEEWR implementation.

More info about the event:

Rescoping Mediakult

27 07 2012

I have been considering the role of the Mediakult blog  a lot over the past year. The blog started out as a teaching resource for students enrolled in ‘Media Cultures’ units at the Australian National University in 2007. From this starting point I have used the blog to broadly discuss topics that relate to ‘media cultures’, to look at media art, review conferences and events and comment on media ‘trends’.

But what exactly is ‘media cultures?’ Is it just a discussion around online communities and their various nuanced personae – e.g. FOSS, Gov 2.0, etc? Or is it about the exponential rise in online careers – online marketing, SEO, content strategy, analysis, strategic communications and the like? The answer is yes, to both questions.  But one of the intentions of Mediakult after it morphed from being a student resource, was to explore all kinds of creative and communications media to determine how they are dependent on each other to achieve successful outcomes. By focusing on the inter-connecting media channels and the relationship between the ‘real’ and the ‘virtual’ (online), I was provided with the opportunity to  continue my 17+ years research into the social,cultural and creative implications of  being ‘cross connected’ , best realised in my PhD thesis.

One observation I have made over recent years is the incredible diversity of terminology that gets thrown around when we talk about online engagement – the semantics change according to the skills/role of the person who is communicating.  A simple example of this is the recent article on Motherboard titled The Web is not the Internet (You’re probably getting that wrong. I guess that is why it is so important that techies need to work with communicators – not just to get the message out, but also to make sure the client understands what they want. Perhaps the topic of terminology should be explored in a later post?

Anyway, dear reader, I would like to offer you the opportunity to be more actively involved in Mediakult going forward. For example,  you can email me suggestions for future blog topics, book reviews, new APIs, TV show, hardware, software, interviews, art and film reviews.  Also, is anyone interested in being a guest blogger for a month? Are there some projects you would like to promote on Mediakult? What would you like me to write about?

I have a lot of ideas about how I would like this blog to evolve, but ultimately it is up to you, the reader, to determine what you would like to see from Mediakult.

Hope to hear from you soon 🙂

Gov 2.0 Conference – Some thoughts

5 11 2010

The recent Gov 2.0 conference in Canberra was a great demonstration of the momentum that is continuing to build around social media and access to open government data.

These moves have not come over night, over the course of many years there has been a strong movement towards applying the principles of the W3C and the vision of the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. In short, his vision is about a Web for everyone and by everyone­—accessible, usable and a space of equity. Berners-Lee’s creation was fueled by a highly personal vision of the Web as a powerful force for social change and individual creativity. See Weaving the Web (1999) if you are interested in his philosophical take on the web.

The reality is that although open source, free ware developers, artists and citizen journalists have been actively sharing, talking, forming communities and mixing online content for nearly two decades, government has been slow to come to the table. Issues of copyright, protection of information and IT security are all seen as potential barriers for government agencies to join the conversation.

The community online has also changed exponentially. For example, research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics about Internet Activity cited that 3.8 million Internet subscribers registered in Australia at the end of the September quarter 2000, and by June 2010 this had increased to 9.6 million. Also, the way we access the internet has changed – with wireless and mobile access now almost on par with broadband access. See Internet Activity, Australia, Jun 2010 for more information.

These videos from YouTube is a good example of the growth of social media

What this conference has demonstrated is that there is a significant risk to not taking action, as government will be left behind and not seen as credible, approachable or responsive to citizens concerns. Sadly to say, in many areas of government there is active resistance to the principles of Gov2.0 because of an unwillingness to acknowledge that the issues are not about technology but about effective engagement and fostering behaviour change. But on the positive side there is some very engaged use of social media and open data that demonstrates a willingness to ‘go to where the conversation is’.

Aside from the recommendations set forth in the Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 report put out by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and the Declaration of Open Government, there are also significant moves in the sharing of government data. Peter Alexander from AGIMO discussed a range of initiatives, which are all on the AGIMO Blog as well as the use of Creative Commons Licences (see the Qld Government Information Licencing Framework).

The range of talks was excellent and to have senior public servants supporting moves towards Gov2.0  is very encouraging – thanks especially to Mia Garlick, Andrew Stott, Andrew Mills, Patrick McCormack and Peter Alexander.

In conclusion, there are still many challenges to educate people in decision making positions about the benefits of social media and open data. Perhaps the wrong people were in the room as there was a sense of ‘preaching to the converted’.  The tweet stream reflected this sentiment with one tweet referring to the lack of support as CRAP – Chronic Risk Averse Paranoia, which I thought was hilarious. That said, what I took away from the conference was some potential solutions and strategies that may be effective in terms of building support for more open and engaged approaches to communications and information sharing.

Gov 2.0 2010 Conference themes included:

  • Update on where the government will take Gov 2.0
  • Promoting innovation
  • Using a crowd sourced community of peers to assist decision making
  • Implementing a business communication strategy that includes Gov 2.0
  • Demonstrating net outcomes and benefits
  • Upskilling your team in social media
  • Utilising open and closed online forums, blogs, twitter and e-newsletters
  • Managing engagement within the twitter sphere
  • Maximising the time of limited resources

Check out:

THATCamp CBR – Summary report

9 09 2010

THATCamp CBR Report

On 28-29 August, I participated in a very interesting event titled THATcamp Canberra, which was organised by Tim Sherratt (@wragge), Cath Styles (@cathstyles) and Mitchell Whitelaw (@mtchl) and hosted by University of Canberra.

This blog post is a summary of all the posts that were published on the mediakult blog about THATCamp, in an effort to keep the content together.

To explain, THATCamp Canberra was a user-generated ‘unconference’ on digital humanities. It was inspired by the original THATCamp, organised by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is one of a growing number of regional THATCamps springing up around the world. (‘THAT’ = ‘The Humanities And Technology’.)

The unconference model works on the idea that the participants generate the sessions, based on individual interests and research. In the lead up to THATCamp, participants blogged suggestions and then when we met on Saturday morning, the program was decided as a group, facilitated by Tim.

The sessions covered a broad range of topics including data visualisation to digital mapping to semantic web to augmented/digital space. Here is link to the THATCamp CBRprogram from Cath Styles Flickr page.

The sessions I attended were:

I missed the data visualisation session, but thanks to Michael Honey, this list of data viz links is a great resource of information about projects and tools focused on the visualisation of data.

As a general comment, the content of the sessions I attended was very rich, which was achieved by sharing experiences and tools in the spirit of collaboration. I have referred to some of the tools and projects in my reports on the workshops I attended. I went to THATcamp hoping to gain some practical skills and I found this, plus much more. I think the unconference model is a great way to focus on what participants want to explore, which was a big contributor to the success of the event.

THATCamp CBR – Semantic web session

The semantic web session was hugely popular, facilitated by Corey Wallis a software engineer who is involved in the development of additional services for the AusStage system as part of the Aus-e-Stage project.

I am particularly interested in the development of semantic web tools as an opportunity for LivingGreener to visualise data about sustainability issues. In addition to this as an artist and researcher I am starting to explore the use of semantic web and mapping tools as a way of developing creative work about family, identity. migration and place.

In short, Corey proposed a session that explored the potential use of semantic web technologies, such as the Resource Description Framework RDF, in supporting research and other projects in the humanities. Some initial questions to start the discussion include:

  • What are these types of technologies used for?
  • What kinds of activities in the humanities do they support?
  • What are the kinds of problems that we’ve used these technologies to solve?
  • What kinds of issues have been explored in using these types of technologies?
  • Sharing thoughts on success stories, war stories and other experiences with these types of technologies.

THATCamp CBR – Open linked data session

The main focus on this session was the access and use of PSI (Public Sector Information). Asa LeTourneau, from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) led this discussion.

This discussion focused on a range of issues including, developing APIs, data scaping from websites, and making data available and different institutions that have made their data available in different formats.

In many ways, this discussion ended up being more about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and I was hoping for more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ on a technical level. That said, I did learn that it is important to write good XML and to have strong URIs 🙂

There was a general comment that Australian government archives ahead of the game because of the ‘series system’ developed in the 1960s. This is a great opportunity for access and visualisation of open data on a global scale. There were also comments that there had been some very good work in this area in New Zealand.

THATCamp CBR – Digital mapping session

BootCamp: Putting the Digital Humanities in its place … what, why and how to map
Presented by Ian Johnson.

This session was an excellent practical introduction into digital mapping. Ian provided some very good information about the basics of GIS (Geographic Information System) and the types of tools and databases used to generate visualisations that intersected data with mapping.

To begin with, the group was taken through an overview of GIS, which I found particularly helpful as I have not had any formal training in this area and have a great interest in learning skills in mapping and GIS.

The presentation then focused on a number of projects that have used GIS technologies, for example: Macquarie map of Indigenous Australia 2007; South Seas Project; Digital Harlem 1915 – 1930 and Dictionary of Sydney.

Ian then provided a list of tools that are used for developing these projects – most significantly Time Maps and Heurist.

I am looking forward to learning much more about digital mapping and building technical skills with some of the tools mentioned in the blog post.

THATCamp CBR – Digital/Augmented space session

In this session, the focus was on how we can traverse physical space with digital tools, map our location and connect with others. There was a particular focus on who has been in the same location and what this could mean for sharing an experience of a space or idea of place. The discussion was led by Dr Chris Chesher, who initiated the discussion by sharing his interest in robots and augmented space.

This topic is close to my heart as it is related to my creative practice as well as my PhD research.

This discussion covered a lot of ground in terms of covering tools, conceptual issues, future possibilities and challenges. For this reason, the majority of this blog post is a list of dot points which are split into three sections – concepts/issues, tools and references. The best aspect of this session was that there was a lot of blue sky thinking about what was imagined, what was possible and what is already emerging. Thanks to @ellenforsyth for providing the initial list of discussion points.

THATCamp CBR – Open linked data session

1 09 2010

The main focus on this session was the access and use of PSI (Public Sector Information). Asa LeTourneau, from the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) led this discussion.

This discussion focused on a range of issues including, developing APIs, data scaping from websites, and making data available and different institutions that have made their data available in different formats.

In many ways, this discussion ended up being more about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ and I was hoping for more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ on a technical level. That said, I did learn that it is important to write good XML and to have strong URIs 🙂

The session proposal on the THATCamp blog read:

Web2.0 has taken hold at PROV and we are now trying to figure out ways to take our existing data and publish it in a usable form on a regular and automatic basis. The specific tasks we have in mind are:

  • how to extract data into xml format
  • design a tool that can harvest xml on a regular basis automatically
  • identify what is an archival standard xml and why and what are its elements
  • how to match our xml elements to the archival standard xml elements and describe why the matching has occurred
  • design a tool that can publish xml on a regular basis automatically
  • Currently users access the collection here. One day, with your help, they may be able to access it

Here are a number of examples of institutions offering data and some of the methods and tools being used:

  • one of the main methods of acquiring open data is by the use of a screen scraper and then put data into xml schema
  • PROV are scraping own website
  • Access the PROV collection
  • People Australia have an API – Basil D (People Australia) is interested in people who want to use apis
  • Powerhouse made available data in csv format
  • Gov 2.0 innovation plan
  • Open Calais?
  • Machine tagging and crowdsourcing as a community activity
  • LORE – anna gerber uq
  • Design and art australia online – users make corrections to data
  • gate systems
  • Xpath
  • OpenSearch, please consider JSON output – it makes web UIs easier/faster
  • metadata conference – analysis of comments from dutch archives – sigfried??
  • open annotation project
  • Koori records unit – wiki – prov
  • community project in western district – wanting to develop sensitive system where rights of access is respected – who can see what because of cultural appropriateness
  • Who am I project – ARC linkage project

There was a general comment that Australian government archives ahead of the game because of the ‘series system’ developed in the 1960s. This is a great opportunity for access and visualisation of open data on a global scale. There was also comments that there had been some very good work in this area in New Zealand.

The Blender Institute

20 07 2008

The Blender Institute in Amsterdam is a not-for-profit studio for open source 3D projects. Sounds exciting eh!

As a follow-up to the successful project Orange’s “Elephants Dream”, the Blender Foundation initiated another open movie project. Again a small team (7) of the best 3D artists and developers in the Blender community have been invited to come together to work in Amsterdam from October 2007 until April 2008 on completing a short 3D animation movie. The team members will get a great studio facility and housing in Amsterdam, all travel costs reimbursed, and a fee sufficient to cover all expenses during the period.

The creative concept of “Peach” was completely different as for “Orange”. This time it is “funny and furry”!

The Blender Foundation and Blender community have been the main financiers for Peach. As for the previous open movie, a pre-sale campaign to purchase the DVD set in advance will be organized.

Additional support from sponsors and subsidy funds has been realized as well.

Peach also was the first Open Project hosted by the new Blender Institute in Amsterdam. This will make the project more independent, without much involvement of production partners, and also will ensure continuity.

Their recent production Big Buck Bunny has gone live on youtube and you can check it out here…

Free Software Advocacy and Politics – Danny Yee

14 10 2007

Free Software Advocacy and Politics – Danny Yee
An interesting site with many useful links ro free ware and avocacy web sites. the owner, Danny Yee says “I’m interested in linking the free software movement with the struggle for social justice and developing the synergies between them, and in connecting free software with freedom of information issues in other areas. (For freedom of speech issues, see my fighting Internet censorship in Australia.)”