Technology

How to Create Network Graphs with Google Fusion Tables

Network graphs are great ways to explore relationships. Unsure?  Just ask Facebook, they’re betting big on Graph Search. While network graphs are useful tools, there may be obstacles for people who feel they don’t have the tech skills necessary to create them. Don’t worry, you don’t need to understand RDF or install Protégé. All you need is Excel or Google Docs, a modern browser, and an Internet connection.

First, you need to think about your data and the relationships you wish to map. For the St. Louis Freedom Suits project we mapped the relationships between people and the court cases in which they played a role. Granted, this doesn’t use Google Fusion Tables, but we created a network graph all the same. Relationships like who defended whom, who is married to whom, and as unsettling as it is, who owned whom are mapped. Patterns emerge.

For my own Lord of the Rings project, I compiled data on characters, whom they knew, in which book they appeared, their sex, their race, and their shifting allegiances. Each relationship is a row in a spreadsheet. My columns in this case are: character, knows, race, book / source, homeland, allegiance, and sex.

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The top row contains the column names and all the rest of the rows contain unique relationships. In this case we see the data in “Knows” changing from Gandalf to Thorin Oakenshield. In order to show Bilbo’s relationship to Gandalf over the course of the novels, we would need an entry for each novel.

In order to get started, you need to upload a file. While you can create one within the interface, it’s not an efficient approach. Furthermore, while it shows that you can import a Google Spreadsheet, I was unable to get that to work.

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Select a file for import.

After you select a file and click next, you’ll see the rows of your data uploaded.

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Above the table there is an option where you may select from which row to create your column names.

The last screen before you’re finished is information about your table.

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In this screen, you may name your table, allow others to export your data, add an attribution and a description of your table.

Click, Finish, and you’re table will then be imported, but there are a couple more steps to see your graph. Next, you’ll need to add a chart by clicking on the little plus (+) symbol at the end of the menu.

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Select “Add chart” from the drop down menu.

Due to the format of your data, a network graph will automatically be created. On the left side of the of the visualization, you’ll be able to filter the different relationships you’ve mapped. If you want to experiment with some visualizations or get a bit more information, please visit this Google support page on network graphs.

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 If you’ve used Google Fusion Tables, what’s been your experience?

11 Comments

Jim Buchanan

Thanks for this excellent article. Will report back here on how it works for me.

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Dave Hampson

I’d also love to know if there’s a way to map 3 or more levels (through this other easy to use software), to create a sort of technology tree of dependencies, and be able to assign hierarchies.

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Nilanjan

Doesn’t this mean multiple rows for each character, e.g., Bilbo knows Gandalf, Bofur, Bofir, etc. Each relationship will require one row?

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