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Six degrees of Kevin Bacon : a webinar on graph visualization (and movies)

September 2, 2013

In the 1960’s a scientist called Milgram unveiled the underlying social networks in human societies with a few simple letters. Today it seems networks are everywhere but without tools and techniques to explore them, they remain mysterious. In a coming webinar, we’ll demonstrate how to use Linkurious to find information in the “Hollywood graph” and why Kevin Bacon is the center of the known Universe.

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon

Milgram’s experiments are linked to the small-world phenomenon.  Through a series of experiences, Milgram and other researchers proved that human societies have a short average path between different people. How short? There is a theory called Six degrees of separation according to which everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. It means that through friends of friends you are connected to everyone on the planet, from Justin Bieber to the most remote villages in the Amazonia. On virtual social networks, it’s quite true : on Facebook the average number of acquaintances between two users is 4,74. So it’s not hard to imagine that in little networks like the world of Hollywood, everyone knows everyone. Movie buffs have actually invented a game around that called Six degrees of Kevin Bacon. The rules are simple : you have to find the connections between an actor and Kevin Bacon via the people they both have played with. The person who finds the shortest path wins!

How to explore graphs

Graph exploration is not just a trivia game though. Financial transaction, logistics systems or telecommunication networks are all real-world example of graphs. Finding abnormal transactions and uncovering the people they involve, dispatching trucks in an efficient way or improving the reliability of a phone network are all problems that involve understanding graphs. But when you don’t have the tools, networks can become mazes.

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