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Visualizations of trade structures
by Carl Nordlund
19 March 2002 02:40 UTC
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Hello wsn list,

I previously asked if anyone had any trade statistics available - I got many
helpful replies, thanks for these! I am in great debt to professor
Quee-Young Kim for the data I have used so far.

I am currently experimenting a little on how trade statistics might be
visualized graphically, in order to simplify the identification of possible
structural exchange relations between economies. I have now imported the
data for a set of countries for two periods - 1980 and 1995 - into a small
computer program where I am using a spring-balance technique for balancing
and positioning of actors in the network. It is written as a java applet and
is run through an ordinary web browser - at this URL:


Use the buttons at the bottom to start, stop and restore the scenario.

The crosshair in the middle is the average coordinate for the different
actors and the circle is the average distance of the actors from this

Toggling between the two time periods is done by clicking on the "change
mode"-button. The scales are somewhat different between the two datasets -
the trading volumes in 1995 were larger than the ones in 1980 so in order to
make it easier to view I have scaled them to similar scales; similar, though
not identical scales. Please note that it is possible to drag actors with
the mouse - on some occasions (especially what regards actors close to the
perimeter) there are a couple of possible positions for actors. (The tension
variable should be as low as possible to get the best balance in the system)

This is just an experiment on visualization and network-theoretical methods
so I'm not very sure whether the graph is very informative or not; I am
still a bit unsure on how to interpret the graph! However, I do think that
the actors which establish positions at the center are usually regarded as
core countries within the modern world-system and I also believe it is
possible to identify clusters of regional trading partners.

I would very much appreciate your comment on this, not only from the
feasibility of the visualization at hand but also comments regarding what
similar experiments have been done before and how the world(-)system(s)
community look at quantitative methods in general as a complement to the
more qualitative reasoning mostly found in traditional
dependency/world-system analysis. Comments and feedback in general would
also be most welcome.

- - -
Carl nordlund, PhD student
carl.nordlund@humecol.lu.se <mailto:carl.nordlund@humecol.lu.se>
Human Ecology Division, Lund University, Sweden

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