The questioning lens as research tool: the social shaping of network visualisation boundaries in the case of the UK junior doctors’ contract dispute

Sian Joel-Edgar, Ingrid Holme, Heli Aramo-Immonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Social media and the data it produces lend itself to being visualised as a network. Individual Twitter users can be represented as nodes and retweeted by another Twitter user, thereby forming a relationship, an edge, between users. However, an unbounded network is a sprawling mass of nodes and edges. Boundary settings are typically applied, for example, a time period, a hashtag, a keyword search or a network substructure of a phenomenon of interest. Thus, the particular visualisation created is dependent upon the boundaries applied, enabling productive visual consumption, but concealing its social shaping. To explore this question of boundary setting and its associated issues, we draw on an example from the Twitter discussions about the UK Minister for Health, Jeremy Hunt, and the media debate surrounding the contractual hours of junior doctors during 2015–2016. We discuss the role and impact differing stakeholders have in setting these boundaries. We seek to provide a set of ‘questioning lenses’ in which we ask why these boundary settings were selected, what effect they have, and what are the potential implications of these boundary setting techniques on the visualisation consumer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Early online date21 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2018



  • data analytics
  • Information visualisation
  • medical sociology
  • social network analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences

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