Telling complex stories through visual and interactive methods is an important part of social network analysis, according to Brant Houston, co-founder of the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

Houston walked the audience through the components involved in telling stories through social network analysis in a lecture titled, “Connecting the Dots: Social Network Analysis” on November 16 at the Wits Science Stadium.

He explained how social network analysis figuratively and literally connects the dots between people and institutions. He showed how social network analysis has been used to tell some of the biggest stories in recent history.

A diagram of the September 11 terrorist attacks, for instance, illustrated the social connections between the terrorists before they executed their deadly plan.

Houston said using social network analysis helps readers to easily consume content if “you make it clear and if you keep it simple and allow readers to be able to manipulate it.”

Multimedia is also an essential part of current social network analysis, according to Houston.

“It’s pretty, it’s more interactive and it gives readers more control,” he said.

Ilya Lozovsky, slot editor for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, concurred with Houston that social network analysis’ interactive nature makes it easy for readers to understand complex stories. He pointed to subjects like company ownership and ties with other companies as an example.

“It’s hard to portray that simply through texts,” Lozovsky said. “It’s also important to make sure that the visuals are complementing the narrative.”