The New York Times’ R&D Lab has built a tool that explores the life stories take in the social space

Project Cascade — it’s a working title — lets you visualize a cascade as a comprehensive unit; it also allows viewers to zoom in on particular events to see key points in how a story’s sharing activity has unfolded. Its side view demonstrates a (relatively) simple timeline of a story’s activity; its radar view demonstrates the separation between conversations; and its 3D view essentially marries the two, representing individual threads of conversation in a sharper way. Complex cascades can also be pruned to show only the most influential tweets (what Thorp calls the “backbone” of the conversation), and the users who posted them.

We recently spoke to one of the Cascade collaborators, Data Artist in Residence Jer Thorp, who described the project as “kind of like a medical tool for social networks.”

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