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FYI the following paper just appeared in the arXiv:

What do we see when we look at networks an introduction to visual
network analysis and force-directed layouts
By Tommaso Venturini, Mathieu Jacomy, & Pablo Jensen

It is an increasingly common practice in several natural and social
sciences to rely on network visualisations both as heuristic tools to
get a first overview of relational datasets and as a way to offer an
illustration of network analysis findings. Such practice has been
around long enough to prove that scholars find it useful to project
networks on a space and to observe their visual appearance as a proxy
for their topological features. Yet this practice remains largely
based on intuition and no investigation has been carried out on to
render explicit the foundations and limits of this type of
exploration. This paper provides such analysis, by conceptually and
mathematically deconstructing the functioning of force-directed
layouts and by providing a step-by-step guidance on how to make
networks readable and interpret their visual features.

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