The NetVis Module: Exploring its Web Site and its Uses

Published: 2021-07-01 08:48:34
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Category: Communication, Internet, Data

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The NetVis Module is no doubt a power-packed web-based tool that illustrates the development of social network analysis. Moreover, the said tool presents a lot of opportunities to those who has a need for it when it comes to analysis and visualization of the relationships within a defined set of persons, groups, etc. As an example, Wayne Baker (2000) stressed the importance of network analysis to identify and build strong team relationships, which would in turn result to organizational success.
Network Analysis, according to Noel Tichy et. al (1979), “is concerned with the structure and patterning of these relationships and seeks to identify both their causes and consequences”. Social Network Analyis or SNA, having its foundation in classical sociology and later on integrated with social scientific and mathematical problem solutions, has been used or applied in various areas of study such as kinship structure, social mobility, and class structure (Scott, 1988).
With the NetVis Module today, along with other related software tools found on the site’s resources page, SNA has been more encompassing covering almost all areas such as discovering key opinion leaders, community economic development (InFlow SNA Software for Organizations), building a grassroot political campaign and finding emergent leaders in a fast growing company (Orgnet.com).



With this, the impression I got was that all areas of study relative to SNA are possible. This impression arose as I was exploring the site.
First, I think exploring the site is quite easy. Just by clicking a button, I could perform a task or go to a page I want to view. For example, the links on the resources page clearly outline the different SNA software tools and what they could do. The web sites linked to the NetVis site provide a wider and a more diverse perspective on how SNA works in different fields of application.
However, contrary to the ease of use is the difficulty in understanding the technical terms of the NetVis Module. This would lead me to my second point, which I would like to talk more about.
With all the technical jargons, I think the NetVis site is designed for technical experts or professionals who have a need for the software. Technical knowledge or at the least familiarity in mathematical sequences, statistics and other related topic areas is a prerequisite  in order to maximize the use of this tool. Although there is an explanation box for each “heavy” term such as geodesics, transitivity, split value, etc., it is still difficult to analyze and/or interpret data coming from the point of view of a novice.
To further my point, I tried the NetVis Module Tutorial. I followed each step, reading instructions carefully and revising my input data before I could get an analysis and a network visualization.
What I did was create two social networks with five members for each group. These were, in reality, my two sets of friends. The “meta tag” I used was secret sharing wherein the question to be asked for each member is “How much information do you share with ____?” Collecting the matrix data using an improvised five-point scale and following the rest of the instructions, I was ready and pretty excited to view the analysis and visualization of my sample social networks.
Before making a full interpretation, I needed to understand first the tools for analysis because it is hard to derive a conclusion just by looking at all the data matrices. I checked all the definitions for degree, betweenness and closeness centrality. I gave special attention to the definitions of density, transitivity, structural holes and split value. I also checked the sub-tools for analysis such as constraint, effective size, efficiency, hierarchy, reachability, shortest path and so on.
Finally, the over-all conclusion I got was that the first social network or the members of my first set of friends are more closely-knit (based on the answers that members of this group share “secrets” or personal and sensitive information with each other more often) compared to the members of the other group. This was primarily illustrated by the higher values in bridges, ties and shortest path between each pair of “actors” and among all members of the group. However, it is also worth noting that the difference in values between the two groups is not that big (0.2 to 0.3 difference only).
I found the results interesting because it is through this tool that I realized that my friends coming from two different groups have trust and confidence with each other on the basis of sharing personal and sensitive information.
For a student, this is one practical use of the NetVis Module. In fact, I am looking forward to do more “experiments” using this tool—creating other social networks with the integration of other factors such as geographical distance, which I have not included in my first trial. I could also try to analyze a larger group and see who the key players are or who plays the role of a leader. This could be done by looking at the core and periphery actors or members of the group. I could also try to find out who among the members of a group are “somewhat unreachable” (no path exists) by other members. Aside from those mentioned, there are still lots to demonstrate about the relationships among members of a particular group. These are just some of the things I would like to look into.
Apart from personal use, I think the NetVis Module, with its relatively intricate procedures and tools for analysis, is primarily designed for organizations and institutions advancing certain academic, business, social, political, cultural, and economic purpose.
I think that this is one limitation of this web-based tool—not everybody could use it. Of course I understand that this is not really for everyone. It is distributed for free with the hope that it would be helpful to those who need it. But maybe, just maybe, the NetVis Module could expand its range by making a similar SNA and visualization tool designed for a more personal use.
References
Baker, W. E. (2000). Teams as Networks: Using Network Analysis for Team Development. Humax Publications. Retrieved November 15, 2007, from http://www.humax.net/teams.html
Scott, J. (1988). Sociology. SAGE Journals, 22, 109-127.
Tichy, N. M., Tushman, M. L., Fombrun, C. (1979). Social Network Analysis for Organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 4, 507-519.
 
 
 
 
 

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