Rob Ford saga as techno-thriller

Or at least a neat data visualization that makes it look like one


In a recent Flare profile, Crazy Town author Robyn Doolittle revealed that she used to have “this corkboard in my condo, with all these pictures, strings, stickers and timelines. People would come over and say, ‘Is this Homeland?'”

I never got to see Doolittle’s Homeland board (and only really know the series via its Simpsons parody), but I imagine it looked something like this. Or would have, if Doolittle knew how to code.

rofo.ca is the work of Ian Dennis Miller, a grad student in U of T’s Department of Psychology, whose research focuses on memes and “the psychological processes that underlie sharing.”

In an email, Miller explains that his interest in this kind of data visualization began when an online course in social network analysis introduced him to a dataset of Enron emails.

“The Enron example caused me to think about how a gnarly tangle of email could be ‘ironed-out’ into a coherent narrative using social network methods,” he writes. “A few weeks later (May 2013), Gawker and TorStar laid this golden mystery upon Toronto’s doorstep. As the Ford story developed, I couldn’t help but think about the social network analysis class I had just completed.”

Over the next year, as he developed software for his formal research, he found himself “recycling parts of that work to create rofo.ca.”

“I am curious to observe how rofo.ca will be incorporated into online discussion, because rofo.ca was built to act as a resource that others can use to tell their own stories. Each person, place, and event on the map corresponds to a simple, unique URL, and I hope these URLs will act as building blocks that make it a little easier for people to construct a narrative. The Ford story is so complicated that I think people can get fatigued just trying to keep the details in order.”

The site’s not yet perfect (as of this writing, the Don Jail appears to be plotted at College and University, for example), but it’s certainly fun to get lost in, as you fantasize about a grand pattern emerging from the synaptic mist.

Crack the crack case before the crack case cracks you.

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