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Futurists on Twitter: An analysis of network centrality and authority

By Ross Dawson

Since the 1990s I have been applying network analysis to help understand the development of technology, business, and society. In 2002 I wrote the book Living Networks to describe how networks are moving to the center of our world.

Over the years I have analyzed the network characteristics of many domains, including organizations, industries, influence, business relationships, innovation, decision-making and more. I am now coming back to spend more time exploring how network analysis can provide us with useful insights.

To kick off a forthcoming series of network analyses, we have done an analysis of prominent futurists on Twitter who are included on my Futurists Twitter list.

Below is a zoomable (and embeddable) image of the analysis. An explanation is provided below.

Each node in the graph represents a futurist’s twitter profile. A line connecting two nodes represents a follower relationship. On average each user follows and is followed by 37 other people.

Two important concepts in social network analysis are authority and centrality .

Authority reflects importance based on quality and connectedness of followers.

Centrality is a broader concept, reflecting the time it takes for a message sent by that user to reach everyone in the network. More connections mean faster propagation and higher centrality.

In this chart centrality is shown by color (green most central) and authority by the size of the node. As these are related concepts, nodes with the same color tend to have similar size.

The network is fairly well connected, showing a relatively “flat” social structure with no established hierarchy.

The 40 highest authority Twitter profiles in the network are:

@iftf – Institute for the Future
@WorldFutureSoc – World Future Society
@rossdawson – Ross Dawson
@gleonhard – Gerd Leonhard
@DefTechPat – Patrick Tucker
@Urbanverse – Cindy Frewen
@VenessaMiemis – Venessa Miemis
@cshirky – Clay Shirky
@cascio – Jamais Cascio
@bruces – Bruce Sterling
@mitchbetts – Mitch Betts
@frankspencer – Frank Spencer
@futuryst – Stuart Candy
@johnmsmart – John Smart
@Geofutures – Josh Calder
@ThomasFrey – Thomas Frey
@doctorow – Cory Doctorow
@heathervescent – Heather Schlegel
@psaffo – Paul Saffo
@MareeConway – Maree Conway
@dunagan23 – Jake Dunagan
@jenjarratt – Jennifer Jarratt
@kevin2kelly – Kevin Kelly
@wendyinfutures – Wendy L Schultz
@patrickdixon – Patrick Dixon
@Joi – Joi Ito
@GreatDismal – William Gibson
@futuristpaul – Paul Higgins
@futuramb – P A Martin Börjesson
@kristinalford – Kristin Alford
@nraford – Noah Raford
@avantgame – Jane McGonigal
@DavidBrin – David Brin
@jhagel – John Hagel
@fastfuture – Rohit Talwar
@singularityhub – Singularity Hub
@singularityu – SingularityU
@futureguru – Dr. James Canton
@timeguide – Ian Pearson
@FutureCon – Future Conscience

We will later post some further network analyses of futurists using some different analytic approaches