Customers who bought this book also bought these books

This description connects the books at For each book, Amazon shows other books which are also bought by the customers who bought the book you are looking at. It sounds like a word game, in fact this is a simple description of a consumption network.

After reading The Social Life of Book, a visual analysis of the Amazon book network by the SNA researcher Valdis Krebs, I decided to do look at the surrounding network of the books that I am interested in.

I did the analysis on the two books that had big impact on me: “Design By Numbers” by John Maeda and more recently “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein. I started to trace the network out one and two steps from the focus book. As Krebs asked in his analysis, I was interested in the questions “How do these books relate?”, “What themes would I see in the surrounding network?”, “Will the book end up in the center of one massively interconnected cluster?”, “Will it end up linking together otherwise disconnected communities of interest?”

After manually collecting the data from Amazon, I added them into an XML structure and then in Processing wrote a basic force-directed graph algorithm to layout the network. Nodes pull or push in relation to each other, highly connected ones are stronger. I added some features like incoming connection count, which affects the pulling force (circle size represents the number of incoming connections). Click on the images below to enlarge.

“Design By Numbers” graph

In this graph we see clusters with themes ranging from computational design to sustainability to contemporary art to network culture. Design By Numbers is at the center of highly interconnected cluster of computational design, which also includes books such as Designing Interactions (has the most incoming connections), Processing Handbook, Visualizing Data, Physical Computing, and John’s recent book The Laws of Simplicity (the second highly connected). In the periphery of this cluster we see Everyware and Shaping Things, which act as bridging ties to other clusters. Everyware is bridging both the network theory and the sustainability cluster to computational design. Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things, not suprisignly, is in between computational design and sustainability. The sustainibility cluster is of course very close to the architecture cluster, in fact the bridging tie is Bruce Mau’s Massive Change. As you may know Bruce Mau collaborated with architect Rem Koolhaas in many projects including the rock solid SMLXL book. Koolhaas’s other collaborator is the building structure genius Cecil Balmond, who is the author of Informal. Well you can keep following these relationships forever. From the computational design and the architecture clusters, it is visible, and probably quite natural, that readers follow the professional and academic relationships between authors.

The recent MoMA Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition catalogue includes projects both in the field of computational design and architecture. Containing some Olafur Eliasson catalogues (names invisible), this group makes a little science-art cluster; and connects to Clay Shirky’s new book Here Comes Everybody in the network culture cluster. Here the central topic is complex networks, however the books are about different aspects of this complexity. We have books talking about the architecture of the networked society, economics, business, cultural and political critique. Interestingly between the network theory cluster and the computational design cluster there is an ironic book called Presentation Zen (name not visible, the one that connects Shirky’s book to Visualizing Data and Processing Handbook).

Contemporary art cluster at the bottom left has many artist and art theory books. The book Participation connects to The Exploit, Galloway and Thacker’s new book in the network theory. Together with Alex Galloway’s other book Protocol they are actually pulled by art theory. If we go deeper in the data collection we can probably see these two books getting more closer to the art theory cluster.

A few structural holes are interesting here. There seems to be no connection between contemporary art and computational design, at least in this collection. Any books you know that can connect these two clusters? Also there seems to be a structural hole between sustainability and science-art clusters. Don’t we have art about sustainability, sustainability art, or maybe “sustainable art”? MoMa exhibition seems like connecting architecture and network theory, but it is more than a few steps. I’d like to know more about possible weavers between architecture and network theory.

“The Shock Doctrine” graph

This graph ended up in two major clusters with themes globalization/finance and political/economic critique. The Shock Doctrine is in the larger cluster on the right. It has the most incoming connections followed by The End of America, The Conscience of a Liberal, and Broken Government. Together they make the center of this cluster, that is critical analysis. Whereas on the periphery, there are books that sound more like conspiracy theories (haven’t read though).

Globalization / finance cluster mostly contains neoliberal books as you can tell from the names. I started to read the recent best seller Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World and George Soros’s The New Paradigm of Financial Markets. These two books have more shared readers than the others in this group.

These two clusters are representing different political views, we can probably say neoliberals and leftists; and what bridges them is another ironic book called Bad Money

7 responses to “Customers who bought this book also bought these books

  1. Nice work Burak! I love any project that draws attention to “the system of texts” and this certainly speaks to reading & purchasing patterns as constellations of interest rather than isolated events.

  2. this is really interesting!
    I would think that the connection between contemporary art and computational design would be some of the new media art books, such as Caroline Jones “sensorium” or Christiane Paul’s “Digital Art” or Lev Manovich’s Language of New Media.

  3. Thanks Greg,

    It is interesting to see how different communities of interest emerge and have connections in between. Of course these relationships are constantly changing, here all we get a slice from it.

  4. Thank you Judith,

    Yep I think these three books may tie contemporary art and computational design clusters, if we go deeper in the data collection.

    I was also surprised by the weak connection between computational design and network culture / theory.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *