If you want to really understand network visualizations or see if some data you have contains patterns (and don’t want to code!), use Gephi:
“Gephi is the leading visualization and exploration software for all kinds of graphs and networks. Gephi is open-source and free.”
Gephi is a network analysis tool, one of the easiest to use: which means you can give it data, and it will create a visualizations of patterns in that data. The data does not necessarily need to be anything that would conventionally be called a network: load a database of spreadsheets about movies, or give it the text of every essay you ever wrote.
Digital humanities scholar, Martin Grandjean’s introductory tutorial to Gephi is very helpful. It contains many definitions of terminology (with images) and many examples: archives, twitter, social networks, books.
In the above diagram (created by Franco Moretti) characters are nodes/vertices, communications are lines/edges. Moretti uses the techniques of statistical analysis — in this case simple binary counting: do they communicate? Yes/No — to measure interaction between characters. This simple technique permits an understanding of plots as networks of relationships clustered around central hub characters. It is a mode of computational interpretation that both confirms and refutes many of the accepted theories about famous plays.
In other “distant reading” analytic works, Moretti’s team converts entire archives of literature into data in order to reveal patterns that emerge at the macro-scale.
Ole Schreenen: “I think of our architecture as organizational structures.At their core is indeed structural thinking, like a system:How can we arrange things in both a functionaland experiential way?How can we create structures that generate a seriesof relationships and narratives?And how can fictive storiesof the inhabitants and users of our buildingsscript the architecture,while the architecture scripts those stories at the same time?
… So we could think of architecture as complex systems of relationships,both in a programmatic and functional wayand in an experiential and emotive or social way …
Of course, the skyscraper is vertical — it’s a profoundly hierarchical structure,the top always the best, the bottom the worst,and the taller you are, the better, so it seems.And we wanted to ask ourselves,could a building be about a completely different quality?Could it undo this hierarchy, and could it be about a systemthat is more about collaboration, rather than isolation?
… And suddenly you think of architecture no longer as built substance,but as an organism, as a life form. ”