i’m familiar with using self organizing maps to study the mechanisms of action of chemotherapeutic agents but the big picture mentions them in an entirely different context:

“THE rivers of electronic information gushing around the world?s companies ought to reveal a lot about how people communicate within these organisations. But until now the very volume of data involved has defeated attempts to analyse it. A group of Finnish academic physicists has, however, developed some nifty software to help with the task.”

“The main sifting technique employed is called a self-organising map. This projects the convoluted network of different types of communication between individuals on to a plane (see diagram). It does so by repeatedly adjusting the position of the individuals in the map, in order to minimise the distance between those whose communications have most in common. The trick behind this process is to find a mathematical formula that measures these distances efficiently, since the types of communication can be very different in nature. Dark islands on the map show clusters of individuals who are working strongly together. Weak bridges of communication link some of the islands. And deep channels of silence isolate certain islands entirely.”

[ self organizing maps and the big picture via peterme]

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