Blog Post

The HASTAC Spectrum

The HASTAC Spectrum

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Yet another approach to understanding the structure of HASTAC is to explore members' self-identified "Interests," as listed in their profiles. Again, even adopting the relatively minor assumption that most individuals do not have universal interests, and that they will select, based on their actual preferences, some subset of the 61 topical divisions suggested by the profile form, these selections contain information.

Essentially, we might expect, and it appears to prove true, that users' Interests can be used to build a simplified spatial representation of topics on HASTAC. In this user interest space, similar topics are located in close proximity, while topics that have relatively little to do with each other are further apart. A multidimensional scaling algorithm called SMACOF allows us to take a simple matrix of topic co-interest (where topical similarity is measured as the number of users who list any given pair of topics on their profile page), and convert it into a reduced-dimensionality representation of this similarity.

The results of this scaling can be seen here, or at the top of this post. The principal structuring dimensions appear to be a Humanities - Technology continuum, and an Educational - Occupational scale, although these are imperfect descriptors of a complex set of ideas.

I ran a three-category fuzzy clustering on this space, and the clusters can approximately be described as Forward-looking Humanities (DH and education), Traditional Humanities (Cultural Studies, History, etc.), and Technology (Data, Science, Computers and the Internet). These clusters are in red, green, and blue, respectively, with gradients between the various colors to indicate imperfect fit within each cluster.

Each HASTAC member can be thought of as occupying a position in this space; essentially, the average of his or her interests' locations -- I am located somewhere just below Government & Politics, and just to the right of Advocacy -- where do you find yourself within the HASTAC spectrum?


This is a fitting final post for me, as I leave my position working on the EAGER grant. Working with the HASTAC staff has been a fantastic experience, and I have really enjoyed getting to be a part of the community which actually constitutes HASTAC. It has been a great pleasure to study our collective interests and ideas, and get caught up in the shared excitement for new ideas and frontiers. The incoming post-doc on the project is Marco Toledo Bastos, who brings fresh ideas and an amazing skill set to the project; I very much look forward to learning from him, and from the rest of HASTAC, in the coming years.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1243622. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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