Keywords for Radicals: Technical details of the production of visual Constellations images

This post describes the technical process I developed for a side project I've been working on the last few months, in collaboration with my comrade Andrew Thompson. Andrew came to me last year with absolute certainty that I was the right person to take on this challenge, and I'm very grateful that he did, even though I didn't always feel so certain. The project Andrew has been working on with a group of other folks, is a book called Keywords for Radicals. I encourage you to check it out.

The sub-project Andrew asked me to tackle was the idea of producing a graphical representation of the entire set of Keywords in the book, and their relations to each other. These relationships are of course myriad and complex, but working from the explicit, editor-chosen list of "see also" entries at the end of each Keyword section of the book, we could find a starting point in mapping these relationships, in hopes of getting a glimpse of a bigger picture.

More details to come, and I expect nobody will really be looking for them here, at this point, but I mainly just want this page to exist on the web sooner than later, so when the book goes to print, the link is already live!

Sketchy outline:

  1. Parse initial list of words/connections using custom-built Perl script
  2. Import resulting CSV files into Gephi to manipulate and export to generic format
  3. Import resulting GML file into Cytoscape to automatically layout the network algorithmically
  4. Manual tuning of the resulting network (tedium + discovery)
  5. Construct and run Cytoscape "command scripts" to style and export SVG images of each Keyword "constellation"
  6. Rejoice, reflect, and write up a piece about the politics of Data Visualization & Opensource software