In graph theory, the set of companies and their board members is a classic example of a bipartite graph: individual board members sit on the boards of different companies, "linking" them in an abstract sense. Similarly, different board members are "linked" to one another by sitting on the same board of a specific company.
I recently ran across this very nice visualization of board members and companies for the United States. The visualization project is aptly titled "They Rule" and was purportedly built to improve political-economic transparency:
OverviewThey Rule aims to provide a glimpse of some of the relationships of the US ruling class. It takes as its focus the boards of some of the most powerful U.S. companies, which share many of the same directors. Some individuals sit on 5, 6 or 7 of the top 1000 companies. It allows users to browse through these interlocking directories and run searches on the boards and companies. A user can save a map of connections complete with their annotations and email links to these maps to others. They Rule is a starting point for research about these powerful individuals and corporations.Context
The visualization uses the API of the data collection group littlesis.org, which is itself also worth checking out. It seems like a data set ripe for network-based analysis of our country's political economic structure.A few companies control much of the economy and oligopolies exert control in nearly every sector of the economy. The people who head up these companies swap on and off the boards from one company to another, and in and out of government committees and positions. These people run the most powerful institutions on the planet, and we have almost no say in who they are. This is not a conspiracy, they are proud to rule, yet these connections of power are not always visible to the public eye.