Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks

Culturegraphy, Visualizing Cultural Network Dynamics

by Boris Müller, Kim Albrecht, Marian Dörk

Abstract

Culturegraphy visualizes cultural information exchange over time. Treating cultural works as nodes and influences as directed edges, the visualization of these cultural networks can provide new insights into the rich interconnections of cultural development. The graphics represent complex relationships of movie references by combining macro views summarizing 100 years of movie influences with micro views providing a close-up look at the embedding of individual movies. The macro view shows the rise of the self-referential character of postmodern cinema, while the micro level illustrates differences between individual movies, when they were referenced and by whom. The visualizations provide views that are closer to the real complexity of the relationships than aggregated views or rankings could do.

The project is based on data from Andreas Spitz and Agnes Horvat, who presented a movie ranking by references at AHCN 2013. By providing a graphical view of the data, questions about where the data comes from and what the real meaning behind this community-based data becomes essential. As part of an exploration of these questions, the data can be seen as interplay between three forces: the Internet as a medium, the community who created the data, and movie history as the theme.

All findings resulted from a process that involved network scientists, media theorists, and sociologists. The role that design played in bridging scientific communities was central to this work. The resulting visualizations became important building grounds to bring the scientific disciplines together. Today physicists through the study of networks ask similar questions as media theorists or sociologists with very different techniques and methods. Visualization can serve as a common language that brings fields together, shows differences, but also has its own subjective views.

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