Geovisualising unequal spatial distribution of online social network connections: a Hungarian example

With the help of geovisualisation and analytical techniques this paper aims to introduce how online social network (OSN) connections are shaped by geographical rules. The paper deals with methodological issues of mapping OSN data in a detailed manner on the level of settlements, which has been underexplored in previous spatial researches. Examples of iWiW, the largest Hungarian online social network, are applied to show unequal spatial distribution of city to city connections. The results reflect that geographical proximity is decisive also in virtual space connections, which could be traced on maps of network topology as well. Our calculations and geovisualised models additionally highlighted that population size and user intensity in settlements may have some relations, too. Therefore, maps of network connections have been carried out both with raw weights and after size normalization, which performed differently. Additionally the paper deals with methodological questions of mapping OSN data that were until now basically aspatial. Geolocalisation of data was made by joining user-given residence information with Hungarian settlement coordinates. The settlement level aggregated dataset then became possible to visualise relations, however, since total number of mappable connections reached more that 1.3 million, GIS techniques had to be applied to select and visualise the relevant information. Finally thematic maps were possible to be generated from the originally non-spatial dataset of the OSN regarding user rates or connectivity characteristics of Hungarian settlements. All in all, cartographic outcomes could serve as useful instruments to understand how network space relations are generated.