An important sociological phenomenon which draws the attention of social network analysts is the emergence of communities, which tend to form, evolve, and dissolve gradually over a period of time. Understanding this evolution is crucial to sociologists and domain scientists, and often leads to a better appreciation of the social system under study. Therefore, it is imperative that social network visualization tools support this task. While graph-based representations are well suited for investigating structural properties of networks at a single point in time, they appear to be significantly less useful when used to analyze gradual structural changes over a period of time. To address these challenges, we have developed an interactive visualization methodology for dynamic social networks. Our technique focuses on revealing the community structure implied by the evolving interaction patterns between individuals.
We apply this technique to visualize the community structure of Grevy's zebras in Laikipia, Kenya. Grevy's zebras communities are characterized by a fission-fusion social structure, which can not be captured in static networks. Using this technique, ecologists can look at the evolution of the social structure over time. Our visualization also incorporates a space-time view to show the movement of zebra communities. The two views are linked, enabling ecologists to look at spatio-temporal group dynamics and correlate them with changes in the social structure of Grevy's communities.
K. Reda et al. Visualizing the Evolution of Community Structures in Dynamic Social Networks. Computer Graphics Forum 30 (3), 1061-1070, 2011 [PDF]
K. Reda et al. SocioScape - a Tool for Interactive Exploration of Spatio-Temporal Group Dynamics in Social Networks. In Proc. of InfoVis '09, Atlantic City, NJ, 2009. [PDF]