SocioPatterns.org aims to shed light on patterns in social dynamics and
coordinated human activity. A case in point is the study of contact
patterns, which deals with such patterns in contacts among people. To date,
little is known about these patterns. Although models can help in learning
more, measuring real-world dynamics is indispensable for obtaining a
complete picture. Fortunately, emerging technologies such as active RFID
devices offer previously unfeasible means for collecting this much needed
The following images are part of a video that gives an impression of
a first contact patterns experiment and visualization being developed by
researchers at SocioPatterns.org. The authors did a medium-sized test
deployment of this experiment during the workshop "Sociophysics: status and
perspectives" in Villa Gualino, in Turin, Italy, in May 2008. They asked
volunteers to wear small tags with integrated active RFID technology,
henceforth called the beacons. These beacons continuously broadcast small
data packets while the participants lingered in the Bar during breaks, had
lunch in the Cafeteria or attended presentations at the main workshop room.
These packets were received by a number of stations and relayed through a
local network to a server for further processing.
The main visualization
represents the beacons, the stations, and their relations of proximity as
measured by the system. The beacons are shown as simple discs, which are
optionally labeled. Two beacons are connected by a link if the system
detected that they are close to each other. The length, thickness and
transparency of a link are a function of the strength of the link: short,
thick and more opaque links represent strong proximity; thin, transparent
links indicate weak proximity. The size of the discs representing the
beacons depends on the number and proximity of other beacons, and
specifically is a function of the sum of link weights to other beacons. The
stations are shown as labeled shapes and laid out in a circle that spans the main view. The size of these shapes varies according to the number of
beacons that are close to them.
The visualization client is an Adobe Air application developed in Flex. The
visualization and physics system use (a mildly modified version of) the
flare visualization toolkit.