Visualizing Practice: the NETWORKS we browse vs. the NET WORK we do
ASLA’s Dirt blog has some rather interesting visualization of design-specific social networks that reveal subtle differences between the way that architects, landscape architects, and planners interact online. These networks are visualized as both non-spatial virtual networks (below) as well as spatialized on maps of the United States and the world.
[The graphs below] show the conceptual forms of each network. In these graphs, the larger the circle the greater the influence of a member. The closer the circles to the center, the greater the interconnection among the most influential participants and all network followers. The greener the circle and line the more frequent the communication between network followers.
If we compare the APA network graph with the ASLA network graph, the APA followers appear less densely connected and more connected to one center. Many APA followers are tenuously inter-connected on the periphery of the network. Most of the APA’s influential followers are on the network edge and not well interconnected with its followers. The ASLA network, on the other hand, is very dense, with many followers inter-connected throughout the network. Many of the ASLA’s influential followers are well-connected to the larger network from positions close to its conceptual center. The ASLA also seems to have many more followers than the APA in this study.
The geo-located spatializations of these five design networks, below, are revealing as well. While it’s no surprise that both coasts have a strong presence–or that the architecture networks are almost singularly centered on New York–what is surprising is how these spatializations reveal some unexpected hotbeds: influential members in Texas for ArchRecord, a strong Central European presence for the ASLA, and the relative strength of South America for Architizer (as compared to the planning and landscape architecture networks).
While it’s certainly useful to see the social networks of our affiliated industries mapped out–and I’m glad to see the juxtaposition of both spatial and network mappings–these maps don’t do a whole lot to tell us the state of the professions themselves. Influential “followers”–bloggers, commenters, trolls, etc. don’t necessarily equate to influencers in these fields. After all, when was the last time you read a tweet from Rem Koolhaas* or James Corner that really inspired you? While I don’t want to discount the importance of social networks in lending a fresh perspective to design, the challenge implicit in this sort of mapping is relating easily-collected data on virtual interactions–akin to the browsing we do on our lunch breaks to keep abreast of what’s new and noteworthy–with the real interactions that drive the design professions–which create the designed environments that we blog about. And, despite ASLA, APA, and AIA surveys dedicated to understanding professional interactions (and transactions), due to low participation and self-selection (not to mention the exclusion of non-standard and research practices that may not employ licensed professionals), this data is FAR more difficult to hack.
Which brings me to some good old-fashioned data visualization of the HR and project-management variety: two graphs produced by OMA in the mid-1990s aimed at maximizing the office’s efficiency, aka net work output (hence the tongue-in-cheek title of this post). If these charts are at the micro, economy-minded end of the spectrum and the social network visualizations are at the macro, culture-minded end, how do we combine data and methodologies to build diagrams that speak to the REAL state of the design professions–virtual and physical, economic and cultural, public and private, local and global, practice and research, etc?
*coincidentally, it’s been over a year since Rem’s last tweet.