Do You Know the Way to SNA? A Process Model for Analyzing and Visualizing Social Media Network Data

Derek L. Hensen, Dana Rotman, Elizabeth Bonsignore, Natasa Milic-Frayling, Eduarda Mendes Rodrigues, Marc Smith, and Ben Shneiderman

Abstract

Traces of activity left by social media users can shed light on individual behavior, social relationships, and community efficacy. Tools and processes to make sense of social traces are essential for enabling practitioners to study and nurture meaningful and sustainable social interaction. Yet such tools and processes remain in their infancy. This paper describes a study of 15 graduate students who were learning to apply Social Network Analysis (SNA) to data from online communities. Their emergent practices were observed via a pre-post survey, diaries, observations, interviews, analysis of assignments and online class interactions, and a group modeling session. From this in-depth look, we derive the Network Analysis and Visualization (NAV) process model and use it to highlight stages where interaction with peers, experts, and features of the SNA tool were most useful. The important role of visualization in supporting networked thinking was essential, as was the iterative nature of goal formation, data structuring, and data analysis. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the NAV model informs the design of SNA tools and services and supports social media practitioners.

Traces of activity left by social media users can shed light on individual behavior, social relationships, and community efficacy. Tools and processes to make sense of social traces are essential for enabling practitioners to study and nurture meaningful and sustainable social interaction. Yet such tools and processes remain in their infancy. This paper describes a study of 15 graduate students who were learning to apply Social Network Analysis (SNA) to data from online communities. Their emergent practices were observed via a pre-post survey, diaries, observations, interviews, analysis of assignments and online class interactions, and a group modeling session. From this in-depth look, we derive the Network Analysis and Visualization (NAV) process model and use it to highlight stages where interaction with peers, experts, and features of the SNA tool were most useful. The important role of visualization in supporting networked thinking was essential, as was the iterative nature of goal formation, data structuring, and data analysis. The paper concludes with a discussion of how the NAV model informs the design of SNA tools and services and supports social media practitioners.

Details

Publication typeInproceedings
Published inProceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Social Informatics
Pages304-313
PublisherIEEE Computer Society
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