I’ve been thinking of an online version of Net-Map for a while now and my first web-based Net-Map training seminar encouraged me to go further in this direction. During the training I basically directed people I couldn’t see to draw paper maps in their own offices on the Philippines or in India, which is not realizing the full participatory potential of the method. Basically I felt like a blind person teaching someone how to paint.
Now the Knowledge Management for Development Community (KM4Dev) asked me whether we could use Net-Map at their annual meeting to get a better understanding of the links within and beyond this community. And while we will do a lot of this face to face and I’m looking forward to the buzz in the room, we are also considering those who cannot participate in person.
So today I played around with VisuaLyzer, my favorite Social Network Analysis and Visualization Program, to see whether it would be possible to actually draw the network on screen while people are contributing online. The main question was: Can you draw directly and quickly enough as to not disrupt the flow. And the answer is yes. People who use many of the standard SNA programs know how you normally have to fill in an actor matrix first and then import that into the visualization platform. Well, that’s what I normally do with VisuaLyzer. But, and that’s perfect for online facilitation, you can just as well double-click on the empty sheet directly to add new nodes, give them names, attributes (that can be translated into color, size, shape of nodes) and different kinds of links. That’s cool! And the result could look like this: