Using some “real” data for social network analysis

This week’s content in the Data, Analytics and Learning MOOC concentrated on some real-world case studies of how social network analysis (SNA) has been used in the study of learning. The studies which were discussed looked at the application of SNA in areas such as learning design, sense of community, creative potential, academic performance, social presence, and MOOCs. The activities we had to complete involved using Gephi and Tableau to analyse and interpret SNA for the study of learning. Seeing that I don’t have access to any data from a Learning Management System, I had to come up with another source of data that I could play with. I decided to use some Twitter data that’s related to a research project that I’m working on at the moment. I used the NodeXL template for Excel to collect the tweets which were sent during a recent conference, and then analysed the network in Gephi and Tableau. Although the data didn’t come from learners in a traditional setting, such as a Learning Management System, I think that a conference is a learning experience, so I think it’s an appropriate source to use for this exercise. This was the first time I’ve used NodeXL, and I found it very easy to use. For ethical and privacy reasons I’ve left the names of the nodes off in each of these visualisations.

This is what the network looks like in Gephi:

screenshot_214311In this representation of the network, each circle represents a Twitter user who retweeted or mentioned another Twitter user. This retweeting and mentioning is represented by the lines connecting the nodes. The darker the colour of the node, the more connections that it has to other nodes in the network i.e. the user sent more retweets and mentions. In SNA this is known as degree centrality. I imported the network data into Tableau to plot some of the measures against each other to try and see if they are any relationships between them. This graph shows the number of followers, the degree centrality, and betweenness centrality (a measure which indicates whether a node is acting as a bridge between distinct communities within the network) for each of the nodes:

Conference tweets 2From this, it looks like (without conducting any statistical analysis) that for this network there is no relationship between the number of followers on Twitter that a network member has, and their degree or betweenness centrality. I can see that combining these two analysis tools (Gephi and Tableau) can be very useful to gain all sorts of insights. I certainly think I’ll be using these tools in some upcoming work that I’ll be doing looking at Twitter networks.

Social Network Analysis with Gephi

The next software package that we were introduced to in the DALMOOC was Gephi, which is an open source tool for conducting social network analysis. I found Gephi an easier tool to use than Tableau, and it was fairly straightforward to load the sample data that was provided and start analysing it.

These were the results of my analysis to determine the density and centrality measures of each dataset :

For the example_1 dataset:


For the example_2 dataset:


For the CCK11 dataset (Twitter network):


For the CCK11 dataset (blog network):


These were the results of using the Giant Component filter, and then determining the modularity for each dataset:

For the example_1 dataset:

Example_1 modularity

For the example_2 dataset:

Example_2 modularity

For the CCK11 dataset (Twitter network):

CCK Twitter modularity

For the CCK11 dataset (blog network):

CCK blogs modularityIt was also fun to play around with the various network representations, and the options for partitioning and highlighting various properties of the network. This is the example_1 network with a few changes made to it: it’s in the Fruchterman Reingold representation, nodes are sized according to betweenness centrality, labels are turned on, and each community is a different colour

Example_1 extra

Here’s the example_2 network with similar changes:


And for the CCK dataset (Twitter network):


And finally the CCK dataset (blogs network):

CCK_blogs extraI found these exercises a useful way to get some experience with social network analysis, and I have some ideas of how I could use Gephi in a project that I’m working on.