Quiz on envisioning “maps”

ll this week we’re exploring fresh spiritual voices. Monday, we reported on a huge network of men and women who LIFTED a city in prayer. And, today, our Tuesday Quiz challenges you to look at our world in some strange new ways.
    All five images below are “maps” of social networks, developed by social scientists, designers and engineers to help us understand the nuts and bolts of how we form communities.
    The world is changing rapidly these days and there’s so much conflict popping up across the landscape that it makes a lot of sense to study more closely the glue that holds us together—as well as the divisions that separate us.

    Study these five innovative snapshots of social networks—communities—and answer the questions about each one.

1.) Here’s the first snapshot. What kind of community—what kind of social network—do you think this picture represents? Here’s a clue—each dot represents one person in this picture. You don’t have to come up with the specific name of this community represented in the picture—just guess the type of community it is. Here’s a clue: It’s a very common social network that exists in virtually every town across the U.S.:


2.) The second snapshot is another kind of community. Once again, you don’t have to come up with specific names involved—but what kind of human network does this picture represent? It’s an extremely common social network. Notice that there’s one red area in the picture:

3.) The third picture was created to show not a specific social network—but to illustrate something that happens when we form social networks. Every dot in this snapshot is a person. The image was made through an elaborate effort that used electronic tracking of each person in this large social network. What does this snapshot illustrate?


4.) This snapshot shows something about people as they form social networks. Look at the pattern here. This chart was created to show two people in one particular network. You won’t be able to read the captions on the pictures, but look at the basic design and symbols here. What does this picture tell you about our social networks?

5.) Our last snapshot might be called a “cautionary tale.” You might be able to guess the specific social network this picture illustrates, depending on your own social interests. (The name Kirk Radomski is dead center in the middle of this picture.) But, even if you don’t know the specific community pictured here, think about the shape of this picture and try to figure out why it’s significant. What does it show about the social networks we form? Map_005


    IN THE ONLINE VERSION OF TODAY’S QUIZ, when you’ve got your answers ready—click on the link below and the answers will appear. If you’re taking this Quiz via RSS feed or an Email version, the answers are next, so stop reading here—until you’re ready.


1.) It’s a network of friendships in a U.S. school.
   This is a diverse school and the chart is designed to show how friendships form along racial lines. The yellow dots are white students. The green dots are black students. The rose colored dots are all “other” students. The dots are clustered by the numbers of friendships connecting them—and it’s obvious that these white and black students tend to segregate themselves. There are lots of connective lines linking the two populations, though, connections that are vital to this school’s well being.

This image appears on the Web site of Mark Newman, a researcher into network formation. The image is described by Newman as from a study on High school dating: Data drawn from Peter S. Bearman, James Moody, and
Katherine Stovel, Chains of
affection: The structure of adolescent romantic and sexual networks
American Journal of Sociology 110, 44-91 (2004). The image was made by Newman from the data and has spread on the Internet, including its appearance as an illustration on the Visual Complexity Web site.

2.) It’s a network of one person’s friends.
   If you’ve ever played the game “6 Degrees of Separation,” then you understand the importance of an image like this. It demonstrates how powerfully one single person connects outward to many, many, many more people. The spiritual challenge we face on a daily basis was described eloquently in a recent series by writer Christine Gloss.

   In the speed-of-light lifetime of the Internet, you’re actually looking at a nostalgic family snapshot here taken some years ago of a Web site that no longer exists. Created by Timothy O’Brien, the image shows two levels of friends extending outward from the life of Tim O’Reilly, an important publisher of computer manuals and all-around guru of the next wave of digital media.
   The image was created by mapping connections of friends within a Web site called the O’Reilly Connection. O’Reilly himself is the reddish center of his own network of friends. This was made in 2005.

3.)The snapshot shows how Cliques form.
   Just because we’re “connected” doesn’t mean we’re sharing equally and fairly with all the people around us.

   This image was made at a convention. Visit the Trace Encounters page to learn more, but watch out with some of the Web links on that page. Some of them don’t work at this point. The image at left shows the electronic tracking pin that people were asked to wear at this convention. Over time, the pins kept track of real-person contacts made and repeated over time. The resulting snapshot shows that social networks aren’t just a matter of friends linked to friends. Rather, Cliques quickly form of people who spend more time with close friends—and ignore other people in the social network.

4.) The first three images today were developed to show people’s networks of friends—and, in a way, this one does, too. However, this snapshot illustrates something else that’s very important to understand about the communities we form today. It’s specifically a snapshot of the various images we present to the world through our friendships.

   It’s a Flickr Graph, a popular online tool especially a few years ago. Flickr remains a very popular online picture and video sharing site. This Graph spreads out the various collections of images that define and link each person on Flickr. In other words, if you made a Flickr Graph of your life you might get a glimpse of the array of images that you project into the world—maybe as a “hockey Mom,” “a film buff,” “a community volunteer,” “a die-hard Cubs fan.” As individuals forming friendships in the community, we carry with us—without even knowing it—these arrays of images and links that tell the world how they can, or cannot, become a good friend.

5.)This final image is truly a “cautionary tale.” It’s a community of drug users—the pattern of Steroid connections in professional baseball—as developed by Slate Magazine.

   What it shows is that a handful of single friendships can blossom outward into bad behavior—or, using the same principle, good behavior. Many marketing gurus these days are telling companies and other organizations to create “customer evangelists”—people who find so much value in the goods and services that they spread the word to others. This chart shows how powerfully “customer evangelists” can spread both good and bad.

We hope that, this week, you’re spreading the good along with all of us here at ReadTheSpirit!

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