Author: Mathieu Jacomy

Interview of Geoffrey Rockwell, maker of Voyant Tools

40 min read or 1 hour video I was in Dagstuhl for a one-week seminar about visualization and the humanities. Geoffrey Rockwell was also attending, and I jumped on the opportunity to interview him. In short, he is the designer and caretaker of Voyant Tools. The long story, well… read…

How to render a network map, part 1: black and white

25 min read In this series of posts, I roam and gauge the design space of network maps. The series presents and discusses common solutions to the main readability problems that arise when visualizing large networks (1000+ nodes) as dot-line charts, typically based on a force-directed layout or equivalent. The…

Epistemic clashes in network science

5 min read – cross-posted on Big Data & Society’s blog. This post presents the paper Epistemic clashes in network science: Mapping the tensions between idiographic and nomothetic subcultures (45 min read). My interest for networks was passed to me by one of my teachers, Franck Ghitalla, who had just…

It fucks the world to make techno-monsters

7 min read. This is a “billet d’humeur.” An opinion piece, if you want, but this expression lacks the nuance of mood and humour that the French version suggests. I want to share my feelings. Because I am a little angry. This morning, I was trying to compromise between two…

Translating networks: linking visualization to statistics

2 minutes read, 15 with the table of correspondence. All the pictures in this post are by Martin Grandjean. He’s good! With Martin Grandjean, we have co-authored a short paper titled Translating networks for the Digital Humanities Conference 2019 in Utrecht. It seeks to bridge visualization with statistical measures of…

The problem with network maps

6 minutes read The main problem, with network maps, is to figure out what we can trust or not. Not everyone is even convinced that there is something we can trust, and that is also part of the problem. This is a network map. It comes from Divided They Blog,…

Making complex networks interpretable with a metric

A story within a story: this is the only way I can explain the problem of visualizing complex networks. The bigger story investigates an important question: what happens when we try to know something that we cannot know? The mere existence of this question is already capable of causing havoc.…

Science tools are not made for their users

Carelman, Catalogue d’Objets IntrouvablesI often get to talk about Gephi, an open source tool to visualize and analyze networks that I co-created a decade ago. The project is in a semi-dormant state since a few years, but despite some issues it still works. As frustrating as it can be, Gephi…

The Thick Machine

With Anders Munk and Asger Olesen we have been experimenting with machine learning with the help of a physical device built by Asger. It looks like an arcade game and for reasons that will appear, we call it the “thick machine”. We presented it at the Machine Anthropology Workshop at…

A meter for “OK Boomer”

Since “OK Boomer” emerged as a mainstream thing during fall 2019, I have been tempted to engage with it. I talked about it with friends, and got progressively convinced that a stupid idea could actually be fun, and interesting. Finally, during the Christmas holidays, I put aside my PhD work…

The register effect: lists, regimes of absence, and the design of discreteness

This is a follow-up to this blog post where I call bullshit on the claim that computer are radically incapable of certain things because they are discrete, while real life is continuous. The circulation of such claims matters because it shifts accountability. Indeed, we use computations for analyzing social life,…

Is living experience radically non-digital?

I read once again the claim to a radical difference between computers and empirical reality, because the former is discrete (discontinuous) and the latter is not. This claim states that computations are digital, reality analogous, and concludes that big data will never fully account for social life. This argument is…

Two stories about “Divided they Blog”, figure 1.

Lada Adamic and Nathalie Glance published one of the first papers analyzing an empirical network of websites, Divided they Blog. It features a network of political blogs, harvested before the 2004 US presidential election. For good or for bad, its first figure may have had more influence than its findings.…

Is Gephi a Black Box?

This text was inspired by Emilija Jokubauskaite’s master’s thesis at DMI under Bernhard Rieder’s supervision. She studied Gephi and its epistemic culture, conducting a series of interviews (including mine) and reflecting on the relations between the tool and its users, mostly in the social sciences. Gephi and Its Context: Three…

Why I use the term “big data”

I do not like the term “big data” but I use it anyway, though not systematically. I share my reasons to the community of research engineers. From the perspective of an engineer, big data is the kind of technical term that the marketing guys repurposed for their own needs. A…

Digital Glitter, the Curse of Big Data Visualization

In this piece I argue that in social science and humanities, data visualizations are cursed by a latent incentive to reframe them as spectacular outcomes, when in reality, most are mere by-products of scholarly work. Even though data visualization can be highly valuable as research publication (which requires expertise and…
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