Journalists increasingly use visualization techniques to map out relationships between people, companies and government agencies they’re investigating.
The goal is to be able to step back and see who knows who, what the relationships are and what type of influence actually exists in those relationships. The practice is encouraging but does have its issues.
As OWNI’s Nicolas Kayser-Bril explains:
Network analysis has become a popular topic in several newsrooms. Channel 4 produced Who Knows Who, a database of relationships linking British personalities. In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post launched Who Runs HK?, a similar project. These interfaces, although run by journalists, remain closed, and cannot be linked to open formats.
On the geekier side, Little Sis is another database of relations. It’s collaborative, open and has its own API. 57,000 people appear in there, with close to 300,000 connections. The only problem that remains is the bits of information in Little Sis are not validated and only an alert mechanism (flagging) allows for fighting disinformation. Given the sensibility of such a project, it is very likely that lobbyists will take over and, at some point, game the system.
So what to do? How about create your own? And make it Open Source.
OWNI teamed up with Transparency International, Zeit Online and Obsweb (Metz University) to develop Influence Networks, a self-described “open-source, collaborative directory of relationships between people, institutions and companies. Each relation has its own level of trustworthiness, so that facts can be distinguished from noise.”
The code-savvy among us can download the source over on GitHub. The rest of us can use the collaboration’s install at InfluenceNetworks.org.
For details on how all this works, check Kayser-Bril’s post announcing the launch. In it, he gives examples of how it can be used, and how the information submitted to it is verified.