Big Data Part 3: Worldcat’s Identities Network and Semi-Useless Tools

This is the third post in my small series on Big Data, and it demonstrates one of the ways Big Data can be utilized to create graphical representations of how data can become coherent and meaningful at a glance.

Worldcat.org is the best source for finding bibliographic information about any book. They have the world’s largest database, accomplished by networking the catalogues of libraries around the world. But that’s not the only thing they have networked!

Recently I stumbled onto The WorldCat Identity Network, which “uses the WorldCat Identities Web Service and the WorldCat Search API to create an interactive Related Identity Network Map for each Identity in the WorldCat Identities database. The Identity Maps can be used to explore the interconnectivity between WorldCat Identities. A WorldCat Identity can be a person, a thing (e.g., the Titanic), a fictitious character (e.g., Harry Potter), or a corporation (e.g., IBM).”

So to put that in normal-person speak, this means that when you search for an author you quickly get a graphic which maps the relationships of that author to other authors. The beauty of it all is that after your first search result, you can continue to expand the map by clicking on any identity on the map. The following graphic shows the results from searching first for C. S. Lewis and then clicking on J. R. R. Tolkien.

This tool is amazing because of its ability to make Big Data simple and convenient. Of course, one thing that concerns me, is that it is just convenient and not much else. I will expand on this more in my next post, but tools need to have a useful purposes, and sometimes I fear humans are prone to creating new tools for Big Data just because we can! But don’t get me wrong, this is pretty neat.

The final post in this series will cover: “Google’s Ngram and the Illiusion of Knowledge“.

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