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Session Overview
#SH5: New Horizons in Network Analysis Panel
Thursday, 25/Jul/2019:
3:45pm - 4:45pm

Session Chair: Scott Weingart
Location: Marquis C, Marriott City Center
capacity 60

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New Horizons in Network Analysis

John Ladd1, Melanie Walsh1, Maeve Kane4, Matthew Erlin1, Matthew Lavin3, Scott Weingart2

1Washington University in St. Louis; 2Carnegie Mellon University; 3University of Pittsburgh; 4University at Albany-SUNY

In the past decade, network analysis in the humanities has grown from a niche community into a rich and active area of scholarship, large enough to sustain regular conferences, journals, and academic centers. Node-link diagrams, centrality measures, and the small world effect are now common features of digital humanities projects, but there is still much that network analysis has to offer. We propose an hour-long panel that explores productive emergent areas of network research in the humanities. While early trailblazing DH network projects introduced the affordances of network visualization and analysis to humanities scholars, more recent projects are borrowing network techniques that have matured in other fields, including sociology, physics, and epidemiology, among others. This new work positions network metrics alongside visualization as a primary site of analysis, and it applies quantitative network analysis to a wider range of critical objects and concerns.

Our panelists will present three projects that showcase possible new directions for humanities network analysis in 15-minute segments, followed by a discussion led by an additional panel member.

In the first presentation, a panelist will explore network morphology as a tool for examining colonial erasure of indigenous women in the settler colonial archive. In conversation with new work on erasures and silences in early American history, this project examines how document genre shaped network morphology and the visibility of indigenous women’s community influence to European observers. Rather than using network analysis for an empirical argument about indigenous women’s structural place in their community networks, this project suggests ways to read networks for European understandings of indigenous women’s roles.

In the second project, two panelists will examine the social and conceptual networks of the eighteenth-century German Enlightenment based on a computational network analysis of 66,000 journal articles from the Zeitschriften der Aufklärung electronic database. The analysis entails two distinct but related avenues of inquiry. The first is a consideration of authorial co-publication networks, undertaken with the aim of better understanding the collaborative and collective practices that shaped intellectual life in this period. The second investigates semantic networks derived from article titles. When constructed on the basis of a large number of source texts, these semantic networks can shed valuable light on the conceptual topography of a particular historical moment. One key question is how these approaches can be combined to illuminate the relationship between literary and scientific discourses in the period.

In the third presentation, two panelists will address a common question in humanities network analysis: how can we determine which nodes are structurally similar to others, whether intra-network (as in the 19th-century American print network) or inter-network (as in early modern dramatic text networks)? Using modern clustering and supervised classification (or "machine learning") techniques, it is possible to build models of structural similarity based on network metrics such as centrality measures and clustering coefficients. These models allow us to compare nodes more easily and work out questions of who within a large, complex network shares similar social fields.

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