data visualization

FSU digital humanists

Visualizing FSU’s Digital Scholarship Network

It can be difficult to get started in interdisciplinary fields like the digital humanities, since people and resources are sometimes fractured and spread across different departments, schools, and even institutions. As a new staff member, I encountered this problem first hand. I often needed to know about the happenings in digital humanities around campus, but struggled to find out what goes on outside of my own department in the library. Since I am a member of the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (and since we are always trying out and teaching digital research tools), I decided to use Gephi to solve this problem.

Gephi is used to create network graphs—visualizations that show connections between different things. The “things” that we are trying to connect are called “nodes” and the connections themselves are called “edges.” Scott Weingart’s excellent “Demystifying Networks, Parts I & II” provides a detailed overview of the terminology and logistics of networks.

In the context of my project, the “nodes” are people, projects, and places on FSU’s campus. The “edges,” lines, connect people to places and projects, and projects to places. All this data was compiled into two separate comma separated value (.csv) files: one that described the different nodes, and another that showed which nodes were connected to each other.¹ I then uploaded these files into Gephi’s data laboratory.

Gephi automatically generated a very simple, grey, and bland network graph. I then edited the view so that nodes displayed different colors depending on what type of node it was. People are purple, projects are green, and “places” (departments/discussion groups) are red. I then changed the display so that the nodes were generally evenly spaced, which allowed for better visibility.² I also made the node labels visible, which allows you to see the names of the different entities in the digital scholarship environment at FSU. And here’s what the graph looks like!

network visualization

The FSU Digital Scholarship Network. For a larger, better-quality version of this image, click here

Now, this visualization is nowhere near the complete network of people doing digital work at FSU. It was really only generated from the people and projects that the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship has encountered in our short existence, but we will continue to expand this list as more people engage within and across this network at FSU. Our hope is that by visualizing the interconnectedness of different scholarly activities at FSU will facilitate the creation of new and better knowledge.³

If you are interested in starting a digital research project, but find this visualization overwhelming, please stop by the Percolator: our “Digital Scholarship Support Group”, every Wednesday from 3-5 on the lower level of Strozier in the Technology and Digital Scholarship suite. The Percolator is an informal space to workshop project proposals, explore new tools, and discuss issues in the field of digital scholarship.

FSU Libraries’ newly formed Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) provides support, infrastructure and consulting for technology-focused research projects in the areas of digital humanities, academic/digital publishing, data management, and more. We are focused on connecting people to people, building collaborative research partnerships across campus, and providing platforms for new forms of scholarship. Visit for more information.


¹ You can find the .csv files for this document here.

² I used a layout based on the “Fruchterman Reingold” algorithm, if you are looking to generate a graph like this one.

³ Are you doing digital work at FSU and not yet on our list? Add yourself here!

The 2014 Election and the power of open data!

I spend a considerable portion of my time convincing researchers of the benefits associated with publishing their data online in open repositories. Bringing up things like reproducibility of research and the idea of others using their original data sets to advance scholarship in their field or another are my usual selling points. Academics produce vast amounts of data that has value well beyond the scope of their original project. That being said, government agencies produce endless amounts of data and information as they conduct their day to day business. There are obvious products that have mounds of useful information in them, like the U.S. Census or the American Community Survey. Governments rely on information in all sorts of formats to perform countless tasks on a day to day basis. For example, many local governments rely on spatial data of their infrastructure (roads, sewers, power lines) to set maintenance schedules or to select an ideal space for new residential development.