There is a powerful new analytical tool on the block, “social network cartography” for lack of a better term. The masses of data now becoming available are able to be analysed with respect to the networks that exist amongst people. If your friends are obese, the your chances of being obese are greater, if your friends smoke, there is a greater chance you will. This can all be mapped.
Much of the pioneering work has been done by Nicholas Christakis and colleagues from Harvard Medical school over a 30 year period, starting with data generated by the Framington Heart Study, which is being reported increasingly widely, such as this piece on smoking in the Boston area, reported in Kelso’s Corner blog, as a tool for change.
Christakis presents his ideas in this TED presentation, along with more examples. This data cartography is a tool that is evolving rapidly, but appears to me to have an amazing capacity to create graphics that will demonstrate all sorts of complex arguments, and as you know, a picture tells a thousand words.