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Six Degrees of Hollywood

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posted on 01.09.2010, 00:00 by Mayank Lahiri
This is an example of a complex social network – each circle represents a person associated with the entertainment industry (including actors, musicians and directors) and a line is drawn between two people if they appear together in a publicity photograph on the Internet Movie Database, like a modern version of the ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ game. Using over 82,000 pictures from the 1970s through early 2008, this social network visualization shows a large, tightly connected group of celebrities that forms the inner ring. A vast number of people form a loose outer ring, forming scant connections between themselves and the ‘A-list’. There are so many inter-connections between people in the inner circle that the center of the image appears to be a solid blue mass, but is actually composed of thousands of intersecting lines. My research involves the study of massive social networks like this one. This image, in particular, reflects the complex structures inherent in our relationships. Popular notions of living in a ‘small world’ and being ‘six degrees of separation’ away from any other human being are indeed very real and have strong mathematical foundations. My interests lie in harnessing our unprecedented technological ability to better understand complex societies of humans, animals and machines.


Publisher Statement

Entry in 2009 in The Image of Research, a competition for students in graduate or professional degree programs at UIC, sponsored by UIC's Graduate College and the University Library. Images of award recipients and honorable mention images on exhibition in the Richard J. Daley Library and the Library of the Health Sciences, April 16-May 12, 2009.

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