Gephi: A Review

Gephi: A Review

This following Review is a part of my Digital Humanities Course in UCC for the module DH 1002: Digital Tools and Methodologies.

This Review deals with the Data Visualisation tool “Gephi”.

Finding the Tool:

When researching for a tool to review for this assignment I first went to the website, “Digital Humanities Resources for Project Building”. The reason for this was that I wished to use a tool that would hopefully be beneficial for me to use in a project in the future for DH. While going through the list of useful tools on the website, I found that I was likely to use a data visualisation tool in the future. It was here that I came across the digital tool Gephi. The website itself describes Gephi as the following “[an] interactive visualization and exploration platform for all kinds of networks and complex systems, dynamic and hierarchical graphs”. I followed the link on the Digital Humanities Resources for Project Building page to Gephi’s website. The information presented on the website intrigued me and I wished to use this tool for my review. The website provided me with background information on the Digital Tool, showing links to publications about the tool and its applications. These publications deal with the aim of Gephi, which is that it “aims to create a sustainable software and technical ecosystem, driven by a large international open-source community, who shares common interests in networks and complex system”   Following this I checked on the DiRT Directory for this tool in order to ensure that the tool authentic. DiRT Directory listed Gephi in their directory with the same link posted.

While the tool only deals with the visualisations of networks and link analysis, I felt that it could be of benefit in future projects as a means to show relationship and correlation between certain stimuli and results.

Maturity of the Tool:

In order to find out the complete story behind the development of the tool, the website for Gephi provides a link to an interview with Gephi’s initiator, Mathieu Jacomy. The Gephi tool was created as the prototype, “Graphiltre” by Jacomy in 2006 as he was dissatisfied with the existing free digital tools available to him. Jacomy’s design for the tool was original and new as he wished to create a tool that could be altered visually rather than through script writing. Jacomy took inspiration from his experiences with digital tools such as Pajek or Guess. He found that he could not evaluate the results he received. Jacomy used some open source code available to him in order to create his digital tool. Fundamentally, Jacomy want to create a tool that would make a graph that he could easily alter.

The development of the tool was handed over to another man named Mathieu ironically, as Jacomy was primarily a software designer and had little experience in code creation. While the tool became more code based, Jacomy remained involved with the team working on the newly named Gephi to keep his vision of the tool. The most important change to the Digital tools was that Gephi had evolved having its own, original code. Jacomy claims that the vision behind the tool isn’t as important as creating good concepts however. The tool is designed for the users, not for himself.

From my use of the tool, I came across barely any issues in using the tool. While there was an issue in trying to transfer data to the tool, this was due to the issues of a third party plugin.

Sustainability of the Tool

As I alluded to above, Gephi has existed in one form or another since 2006. The tool is still in development, the latest update being in December of last year. The community supporting and using the tool is strong due to the active use of its wiki site and its members. The tool is created by a set team of individuals and rely on user engagement. As the tool is free and non-profit, the only way for money to be generated for development of the tool is through donations. Therefore the community around the project is integral to the future of the tool.  Also as the tool is open source, everyone access to the code. This allows users to ensure that the tool is safe for use, as well as allowing others to create other digital products of this code.

The tool allows for the easy exportation of data for use by the user. Gephi allows for the exportation of its graphs as a file, in csv format as well as other such formats.

 

Sustainability of Research

I admit that the tool does not use a simple interface, and that it lacks appropriate touch-pad support. However the site provides several how to slides on the usage of the tool. I was able to create a graph based upon connections between people in the book “Villette”, similar to the example graph of “les Miserables” given in the Tool. I also tried to use the pre-existing data from my Facebook profile in order to create a graph, however I was unable to download the correct information necessary from the third party app. By allowing the easy implementation of “nodes” as data points, the tool allows the creation of graphs quickly and easily.

I could see the tool as being very useful when trying to create a visual representation of connected information, to be used in presentation and in portfolios. The tool excels in its execution as a data visualizer.

 

Works Cited:

Bastian M., Heymann S., Jacomy M. (2009). Gephi: an open source software for exploring and manipulating networks. International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

Gephi Website: https://gephi.org/users/publications/

Alan Liu, Digital Humanities Tools, Digital Humanities Resources for Project Building

URL: http://dhresourcesforprojectbuilding.pbworks.com/w/page/69244319/Digital%20Humanities%20Tools

DiRT Directory Website URL: http://dirtdirectory.org/

DiRT Directory Link:

http://dirtdirectory.org/resources/gephi

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