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Network Mapping

Clarification of Requirements

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Annex 5 of Visualization of International Relationship Networks (1992)


1. Background

The Union of International Associations is recognized as a non-profit scientific research institute under Belgian law governing international bodies established there; It functions as a clearing house for information on 15,000 international non-profit organizations and their preoccupations; As such it produces a series of reference book from a data base shortly to be placed on-line via the European Span Agency (ESA-IRS). The books are:

* Yearbook of International Organizations
* International Organization Participation
* Global Action Networks
* International Congress Calendar
* Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential
2. Data

Magnetic tape files are generated or maintained as part of the production of the references books. In all they currently represent in excess of 60 megabytes of data. The tapes are all 1600 bpi, EBCDIC, odd parity, composed of fixed records of 180 characters, 20 records per block. This note concerns the further processing of a subset of the above data taking the form of cross-references between (the numbered) entries of a certain type. At the present time interest is focused on cross-references are of different types, denoted by a 2-digit numeric code. They indicate a relationship between two entities, each denoted by an alphanumeric 5-digit code (ANNNN). The relationships include: more general problem, more specific problem, aggravating problem (and aggravated problems), alleviating problem (and alleviated problems), associated problem, concerned organizations, concerned discipline, relevant human values, etc. The entities may be international organizations, world problems, treaties, or various kinds of concepts.

3. Preliminary analysis of the cross-reference tape

This is being undertaken by a separate programme (in Brussels). Basically this takes each entity (of the 3,000) as a starting point and produces a record tracing the chain of relationships out from it along each branch. The trace can be continued through up to 9 relationship links. Each record contains the chain for one branch out from the starting entity for one type of relationship. The programme also produces complementary records on a parallel file with the name of each entity registered in the above trace (partly for use as an index); Other products of the programme enable loops in the network to be detected and corrected if appropriate. A statistical summary enables especially interesting nodes to be selected.

4. General processing requirement

The data on the above tapes must be analyzed in such a way as to produce a set of coordinates on tape which can be used to drive a graph plotter of one form or another so as to portray suitable representations of such networks of relationships. At this point two possibilities are envisaged:

- generation of "maps" as a substitute for questionnaires to the concerned international bodies and to enable the relationships networks to be "cleaned up" by editorial staff (Ideally this would be done in-house).

- generation of clean maps with higher quality typography for publication in the 1985 edition of the Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential. This can be done by Computaprint (London) once the drive tape is formatted.

Briefly explained the problem may be compared to that of getting a computer to plot a suitable schematic map of a subway system (or a road network) when only the links between locations are given. In other words the optimal position must be determined for each location and the links between Them. An additional desirable constraint is that the geometry should be relatively comprehensible namely ordered rather than arbitrary.

5. Breakdown of the task

The task may be split into the following problem areas. These points are discussed separately in the following sections.

6. Processing strategics and run time choices between them

The following strategies might be envisaged as run time options: 7. Optimal distribution of network across selected surface ("packing")

Various strategies might be used depending partly on the surface chosen. 8. Determination of suitable scale for map(s)

The following factors determine the possible scale of the map: 9. Determination of mapping details (typography, etc)

In order to increase the readability of the map it is valuable to take advantage of the sophisticated typographicalpossibilities when the map is directly projected onto print-ready film via a vector generator as opposed to being plotted by computer driven pens. Codes to trigger such typographical features need to be provided with the coordinates for the drive tape.

Possibilities include: 10. Fitting in entity name text

This is the problem of leaving space beside nodes for a name to be inserted (by vector generator or plotter). Various techniques can be used to achieve this and avoid over-writing:

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