Detective relationship charts
October 9, 2013 11:42 PM   Subscribe

On cop shows, especially older shows, the detective(s) would often come up with a big chart involving thumb-tacking pictures of the suspects and victims, places of crimes, etc. to a big board in the "war room." They would often have yarn or string stretching from one picture to the next showing a relationship. After all the pieces were in place, they would circle their suspect with a black marker and cut to commercial. Is there a formal name for this type of chart or technique that is depicted in these cop shows? In general, where could I learn about how to organize complex sets of people, places, and relationships into an easy to digest chart? Many thanks!
posted by DB Cooper to Grab Bag (12 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
You are not the first to wonder this!
A few related questions:
-does this investigative process have a name? [best answer: "link diagrams"]
-best methods for physical mindmapping with string?
-how do I make a cop show corkboard with string connecting pictures?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:56 PM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


And one more related one, just because I love these - looking for examples of the crazy string wall in movies or tv.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:01 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


LobsterMitten's first link mentions the trope "Connect the Deaths," but for more names, see the trope "The Big Board." I've heard it called a murder board (as mentioned there). Probably a mindmapping tool is what you're looking for, so this is a digression, but I'll toss out the fact that there exist graph databases that organize data like that conceptually and custom browsers that let you navigate relationships among people, but I don't know of a tool that automates the creation and navigation of social network datasets in a generically useful and user-friendly way. One may exist, but for large datasets, it's often not as useful as plain old relational (i.e. tabular) databases with tabular output. I mean, have a look at that custom browser of researcher relationships and ask yourself how much better that is than a clickable table of someone's co-authors. Just a caveat, you know.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:19 AM on October 10, 2013


but I don't know of a tool that automates the creation and navigation of social network datasets in a generically useful and user-friendly way.

In the current incarnation, I believe HOLMES does this through the visual mapping interface.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:41 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have seen similar things under the rubric of "link analysis." If you do a Google search,you will find various charting methods and software packages.
posted by rpfields at 4:18 AM on October 10, 2013


"Social network analysis" is a more formalized academic application of this.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:24 AM on October 10, 2013


Also Coursera has a pretty decent MOOC on social network analysis that explains the basics of Gephi software.
posted by pantarei70 at 5:55 AM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


In general, where could I learn about how to organize complex sets of people, places, and relationships into an easy to digest chart?

I often use mind mapping software to do exactly that. Freemind is my current tool of choice, and often resolves chaos into order. Very useful tool. No kidding. Solid 10. Worth a 1 week investment in thoroughly exploring it and similar products. Maybe 2 weeks.
posted by FauxScot at 5:56 AM on October 10, 2013


I am pretty sure I've heard "murder board" although that sounds pretty awful!
posted by radioamy at 9:43 AM on October 10, 2013


Thanks everyone! If you need me, I will be on the other end of this strand of red yarn, figuring out the ins and outs of Gephi software....
posted by DB Cooper at 11:12 AM on October 10, 2013


After doing a shit-ton of reading around for the question in LobsterMitten's second comment , I now think of it as "link analysis" or "network analysis."

SpicyNodes is a web app that seems to want to be able to do this. I haven't given it a good workout yet.
posted by Miko at 8:43 PM on October 10, 2013


I've always called them crazy walls.
posted by gonzo_ID at 6:15 PM on October 16, 2013


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