connecting the neighborhood: a social network analysis and visualization of columbia city

detail of columbia city fb group network analysis
detail of columbia city fb group network analysis
columbia city seattle network analysis
An image of social cohesion within a Seattle neighborhood? Network analysis of connections between members of the Columbia City Seattle Facebook Group.

Columbia City is a neighborhood in Seattle with 7.5k residents. It has an active Facebook group, with 3.5k members that includes residents, business owners, and friends. The neighborhood, like many others in Seattle, is undergoing changes that impact demographics and land-use patterns. These changes have not gone unquestioned and the Facebook group is frequently a vibrant public forum for dialogue and engagement. Often a fear of social fragmentation and disconnection from civic life comes with rapid changes in the urban environment. This project is about mapping the connections between neighbors, graphing links expressed through social networks, and exploring the potential for social network analysis to strengthen social ties for place-based community over time.

Over the next two years, Columbia City’s population is set to increase by 15% as two large-scale residential building projects come to market. What kind of process could be created to understand the transformation of social cohesion over the next few years? Informing this specific investigation are broader questions about data visualization and civic engagement. How can we use social network analysis and visualization to understand and represent change in a neighborhood? What are the limitations, data constraints, ethical considerations, and social impacts of transforming data extracted from Facebook? What are the potential outcomes for social network visualization for understanding and making connections? How can the process of making sense of social network data be participatory, supporting social inclusion?

I’ve used Bernhard Rieder’s Netvizz and the open source tool Gephi to extract and transform the data. I’m looking for opportunities to collaborate with others on this project, to explore alternative methods, deepen understanding of network analysis algorithms, and describe the affects of data visualization. My goal with this project would be to produce a visualization that would show change over time and explore ways that the process of producing it could support increased and stronger ties within the neighborhood.

Presentation slides from the art+civics+code hackathon on Nov 15th, 2014