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Atlas of International Relationship Networks


Annex 2 of Visualization of International Relationship Networks



In the light of information and software packages acquired during the visit to North America in February 1988, two distinct approaches can be envisaged (possibly with some common elements):
  • (a) Arrange for a comprehensive package to be specially produced, possibly under corporate sponsorship (e.g. Apple Corporation or IBM).
  • (b) Link together selected features of existing software packages to produce a prototype marketable Atlas, which could be improved for subsequent editions (possibly via Approach (a)).
In summary, the approach (a) is dependant on negotiation with corporations for the necessary funds and might require some 12 months to complete once such funds had been received. Approach (b) is dependant on UIA being able to interlink and use the software. This needs further investigation. 

A. PRODUCTION PHASES AND PROBLEMS

In the case of either approach, the following distinct phases (and problems) can be distinguished:

1. Reformat UIA data: In order for the available software to process UIA network data the latter must be converted to a different format. This should not present any major difficulties and can be done using Revelation.

2. Segmenting UIA data: Only one of the software packages detected is suited for networks in excess of 400 points (and a revised version will only be available in September 1988). Most have been developed for 255 or less. Even such small networks can require very large amounts of computer time on micro-computers. (Some large networks are now being analyzed by methods necessitating the use of the so-called super-computers). It is therefore necessary to investigate various techniques for splitting the UIA data into a number of separate segments, preferably corresponding to distinct "maps" in the Atlas. Two approaches to this are: (a) use of some network analysis facilities to detect suitable segments (despite the computer time problems) or (b) use of UIA subject codes or similar devices to split up the data.

3. Network analysis: Given a suitable number of points there does not appear to be any problem in analyzing the network. The initial problem is rather one of deciding which combination or sequence of software routines to use in the many available packages. This would require some preliminary investigation and testing. The following groups of packages may be usefully distinguished.

3.1 Group A: Social network analysis: The packages detected and obtained include:
  • (a) UCI-NET (University of California Irvine)
  • (b) AL (University of California Irvine)
  • (c) NETPAC (University of California Irvine)
  • (d) STRUCTURE (Burt, University of Columbia)
  • (e) GRADAP (University of Amsterdam)
  • (f) NEGOPY (Richards, Simon Fraser University, Canada)
  • (g) FATCAT (Richards, Simon Fraser University, Canada)
  • (h) WORLDNET (Levine, University of Dartmouth)
A summary of the key characteristics and restrictions of these packages is presented in Annex A. In contrast to the usual difficulty in such situations, in a number of cases it is possible to switch flexibly between routines in different packages to benefit from particular advantages. The constraints on this, and learning how to benefit from such advantages, need to be discovered. A key factor is the efficiency of the software, which may depend on the computer language and the algorithms used. It is appropriate to note that the level of academic competition amongst the producers of the above packages is high, even though they are not normally distributed on a commercial basis.

3.2 Group B: Statistical analysis packages: The specialized packages in Group A in many cases incorporate routines selected from the large range of statistical programmes commercially distributed in well-known standard statistical packages such as:
  • (a) SAS/PC
  • (b) SPSS/PC
  • (c) STATPAC
  • (d) STATGRAPHICS
Indeed it is common practice to prepare some analyses with Group B packages for use by routines in Group A packages.

3.3 Group C: Special application packages: A completely different approach, necessitating a form of network analysis, is taken by some graphics or design packages.

Of special relevance are:
  • (a) PCB: Printed circuit board design (of which a demonstration package has been obtained.)
  • (b) CASE: Computer-aided software engineering packages provide facilities for mapping relationships between entities and ensuring their appropriate placement.
  • (c) CAD: Computer-aided design (e.g. AUTOCAD) of which a copy has been obtained.
  • (d) CAL: Computer-aided learning has been developed to the point that knowledge elements and relationships can be represented with appropriate text and graphs of conceptual "entailment meshes" for a given subject area. It is pedagogically useful to present the user with a visual representation of any subject area so that the scope of the conceptual system and each topic of sub-system - and the relationships between topics - can be readily seen. These networks can be explored by the user in an interactive manner analogous to browsing a cybernetic encyclopedia through linked cross-referenced, self-referential and recursive information. A prototype of such a system has been developed in an Apple environment in Montreal.
4. Calculation of map coordinates
  • 4.1. Group A: Social network analysis: Following the network analysis, or as part of it, it seems to be necessary to calculate an "adjacency matrix" of the points. This may be done with a number of the social network analysis packages. From the adjacency matrix the coordinates of the map can be produced using a multi-dimensional sealing programme (of which a form known as MINISSA was frequently cited.)
  • 4.2. Group B: Statistical analysis approach: It appears that some statistical packages provide extensive plotting capabilities and therefore built-in options for coordinate calculation.
  • 4.3. Group C: Special application approach: Such packages appear to by-pass the difficulties of this problem for the user.
5. Map plotting
  • 5.1. Group A: Social network analysis: Only one of the packages (NETPAC) provides for a very crude form of network plot. Surprisingly little need is felt by analysts to map the networks they analyze. The keynote speaker at the 1988 Sunbelt Social Network Conference (San Diego) specifically indicated the importance of moving further in this direction.Two packages have been located:
    • (a) The above-mentioned keynote speaker, Charles Kadushin (City University of NY) provided a demonstration package for 3-D mapping of small networks and will provide to the UIA a package for 2-D mapping of larger networks.
    • (b) Joel Levine (University of Dartmouth) has developed a special package for plotting intercorporate links for his Corporate Interlock Atlas. Some of this software is being provided to the UIA.
      In both cases the interface to coordinate calculation has to be investigated in terms of UIA data. Both conclusively demonstrate the viability of the whole approach.
  • 5.2. Group B: Statistical analysis plotting: Information received from those concerned with social network analysis did not indicate that the facilities for plotting network graphs were extensive, if they existed at all. There is some indication that packages such as STATVIEW (on Apple) could be of considerable value.
  • 5.3. Group C: Special application packages: Such packages have built in plotting capabilities.
6. Labelling points

The problem of labelling points on a network graph has not yet been clarified. Various options are however available. The challenge is to do this in a way which enhances the quality of a map.

B. HARDWARE CONSIDERATIONS

1. The quantity of computer power required to analyze and plot large networks, especially in an interactive environment, has forced many such applications onto large computers and, just recently, onto super-computers. Thus Levine's Corporate Interlock Atlas was produced using a main frame, and Klovdahl's sophisticated graphics were produced using a specialized Evans and Sutherland graphics terminal. These are not feasible options for the UIA, nor are theyized Evans and Sutherland graphics terminal. These are not feasible options for the UIA, nor are they economically viable.

2. Over the past few years, much network analysis and graphics has been developed on microcomputers compatible with those of the UIA (i.e. IBM compatible). The problem here is two-fold:
  •  the constraints of 640 K memory in the current hardware/software generation,
  •  the relatively slow speed of such machines.
Whilst major increases in speed can be obtained from faster machines of this type, little can be done about the memory constraint without (considerable) adaptation to the software.

3. An alternative route is through the use of the latest generation of Apple computers (e.g. the Mac II), which can use much larger memory, are very fast and have good graphics capacity. The problem is that relatively little network analysis software has been written for this environment (with the possible exception of STATVIEW) and it is not clear whether the IBM-based packages could be easily recompiled in this environment.

4. Whichever approach is selected, an appropriate plotting device is required, whether in the form of a plotter or a laser-writer.

C. PROVISIONAL CONCLUSIONS

1. There is every possibility of producing some kinds of maps from UIA data, as indicated by the presentation already available.

2. The IBM compatible packages should be investigated to determine more clearly the possibilities and constraints and whether or not they are adequate for a prototype product possibly in conjunction with routines from packages such as STATGRAPHICS.

3. Parallel investigation should be made of special application packages such as PADS-PCB, CASE and CAL which may prove more attractive or offer alternative modes of representing or interacting with the data.

4. Parallel consideration should be given to obtaining corporate sponsorship for a specially written software package to facilitate this approach, preferably in the light of the above investigations and the need to maximize comprehensibility of the individual maps. >

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