At this point in the class, more questions than answers face me. In one sense I recognize the relative simplicity of a network: a connection of nodes. On the other hand, I quickly complicate my simple definition with questions: Are nodes relatively static? Are they predefined via framework or developed on the fly through the action of the network itself? Do the connections “define” the network, or do the nodes? Or is it the friction between the stasis of the nodes and the activity of the connections that makes the network “work”?
As I considered my object of study, Google Analytics, I also considered the object that Google Analytics studies, namely websites. I’ve created multiple websites in my career, both personal and professional. When I start a website, I start with the basic content that needs to be produced/communicated, then develop an organizational framework into which those content areas can and should appear. We call that framework the IA, or information architecture, and I enjoy creating the IA, either from a never-before-organized collection of content or from previously-created content that needs to be reorganized. My strength as a web manager comes from visualizing and developing the organizational and hierarchical framework for the content. Folder and subfolder structure, relationship of subfolders to folders, pages to folders, and folders to site are among the creative activities of my professional position. In short, I develop the relationship of the nodes to one another and create the connections that visitors will make between and among the nodes, both up and down the IA and page to page in individual folders.
What I realized as I considered Google Analytics is that each “level” of a web site – each folder, subfolder, and subsubfolder (and we try to have only three levels in even the largest sites) is itself a network with connections up and down the IA. A domain is a network. Subdomains within each domain are each networks. Folders within each subdomain are each networks. But they are also nodes. At the domain level, the subdomain is a node on the domain network. At the subdomain level, the folder is a node on the subdomain network. At the folder level, the subfolder is a node on the folder network. And so on down the rabbit hole.
Networks are iterative. My mind map addresses the iterative character of networks as it also starts asking questions that I’d like to answer through the semester. I made the connection between the questions because they are the common thread running through my mind right now. I don’t know enough to start answering yet, but I’m developing ideas and theories.
[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user RubyGoes]