When Jeff Heer and i started talking about Friendster, we talked extensively about the practices of users – what they were trying to do, why, how, etc. Jeff used my ethnographic findings to build a visualization of Friendster that would enable users’ practices while giving them a new view of the data at hand. We used my data and his data (everything that was visible to our accounts last year) on top of Prefuse to build an interactive visualization that we deployed at Liquidate. The result is beautiful and those who were very active Friendster users found the tool utterly fascinating as they reinvestigated their networks. Of course, those who were never impressed by Friendster simply saw Vizster as another pretty toy. My favorite quote from one of our non-heavy users in the user studies was “Friendster gives you your two hours of fun, and this doubles it.”
Anyhow, it’s a great experiment in the ways in which visualizations can be connected to ethnographic work and then reinserted into the community. For those interested in more, here’s the Info Viz paper we submitted and the Vizster project page.