A Network Map Arranging Itself

A map created using Quid showing news articles about neuroscience discoveries made possible with DTI (Diffusion Tensor Imaging). DTI reveals tracts of white matter connectivity in the brain, allowing us to see which regions of the brain are talking to one another.

An Ecosystem of DTI Discoveries

DTI Neurotech network graph

About the map: Each of those colored dots is one news story. Dots are called nodes. They are connected by lines called edges. Using natural language processing, algorithms can read the text content of articles and assess content. What is the article about? What are the key concepts? This information creates a similarity matrix of sorts, describing nodes by attributes. These attributes define the physical layout of the network. Articles most closely linked are grouped in clusters called communities.

This map shows an initial set of 550 nodes arranged into network view. Each node repels other nodes, making the communities with fewer connections move farther apart and those with more connections cluster together. It’s all generated in Quid.

A network layout is just the first step. For it to be useful, I need to understand it.

Next comes my favorite: human exploration.

It takes work to make sense of a complex ecosystem of information. Here’s my technique to tackle a network: Make a first pass, exploring each cluster. As I slowly begin to familiarize myself with the graph, I give each community a name.The cluster names are added manually, so it’s helpful to explore the largest nodes and nodes that stand out. Along the way, I save articles of interest.

DTI neurotech quid map with community labels white

Once each community is named, it’s easier to dive into details that make a big picture – the individual stories of scientific discoveries. I particularly love looking at stories that bridge two or more distinct communities.

Now that I’ve collected links, it’s time to embark upon digesting 20+ articles and abstracts spanning things like white matter connectivity associated with self esteem, the neuroscience of risk-taking, and even the links between physical fitness and brain health. Stay tuned for my completed thoughts next month in Scientific American and hit me up on Twitter if this post gave you any ideas!

network map sketch, notes, network, complex network, sketch

Maps of Ideas

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A universe.

We live in one. Your mind is one.

Human beings, besides generating things like science and technology and businesses, generate ideas. Thoughts. Sometimes thoughts lead to action. Life happens or rather is made by he who lives it.

I’ve been pondering: how could we explore being human from a perspective of ideas over time? Say, my personal ideas over time. A dynamic network, the questions, concepts and values that fuel who I am. Creativities and habits; discoveries and experiences.

If you were to document things you think are important or things you are curious about or wonder, what might you have after a month? A year? Eight years?

That’s how long I’ve been doing this. I’ve amassed 30 Moleskine notebooks, 3.5G or 756 voice memos, 6,000 Tweets and gigs of autotune on t-payne (don’t judge).

How could you map ideas? Here was my first attempt from 2012, delivered for Quantified Self at Stanford.

I spent hundreds of hours figuring out how to map 6 months of ideas in the form of emails to self. A collaboration built through an amazing community of Gephi devs.

Others are making strides in this arena. Watch the below TEDTalk about mapping ideas from the top 25% of TEDxTalks. From transcripts to a network you can interact with and explore. Beautiful. And insightful. How could these ideas apply to the ideas of an individual over time?

How do the things I’m interested in evolve? What new things have I learned and how have they made their way into the projects I create or things I do or learn in the future? When do ideas change how I think? After I learn something that changes how I think, it can be difficult if not impossible to retain how I thought before I realized it. Particularly over years. These deep ideas fascinate me.

So I’m exploring them. Publicly. And I’m going to make all of my personal data public someday. Still working up the nerve to put up my browsing history. The short term will see transcripts of voice memos and handwriting. We may need to create new language processing algorithms for stream of consciousness.

Publicly. If you think this is interesting, contact me and think about it with me. I’m using Quid and learning principles of graph theory, community detection, python, JSON, dealing with audio transcription, and most interestingly figuring out how to build a network/networks out of ideas.

Challenging. Exciting. Neural avalanche inducing.