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Introduction to Social Network Analysis for the Humanities

Introductory workshop on Social Network Analysis with the Gephi for the Humanities

Date: 07.12.2023, from 9:00 to 13:00.

The workshop will be in English and online via Zoom. Access data will be sent by email.

Participation in the workshop is free of charge. Registration closed.

The phenomena studied by the humanities are, by their very nature, complex situations: they involve, for example, interwoven personal relationships, collective dynamics that structure social and cultural space, or political and economic systems that operate at local and global levels. The network metaphor is frequently used to describe this entanglement. In recent decades, however, humanities scholars have begun to think about ways of formalizing this approach, appropriating the concepts and tools of graph theory to provide a new perspective on their research subjects and archives. The application of formal network analysis to the humanities is now a highly fertile field of experimentation and research. It can be used to analyze the geographical logics of major circulation networks, to highlight brokers in affiliation networks, to compile family trees to reveal their points of contact, to study the occurrences and co-occurrences of concepts in texts, to show the evolution of personal social networks, etc. And through a great deal of empirical work, the specific features that humanities disciplines bring to network science become apparent: particular attention to the modeling of data that is often incomplete and uncertain, the need to take account of temporality in all its finesse, the necessity to find a language that allows mathematical results to be interpreted in a qualitative narrative.

In this workshop, we will review the current state of network analysis practices in the humanities, after having described the basic concepts of this method. We'll see that applying graph theory to our disciplines requires several stages of translation: translating our sources into data, then translating mathematical or visual results into interpretation. Secondly, we'll take a guided tour of the Gephi software, based on a test dataset. This will give us an idea of what is possible with such software (as this workshop is a quick introduction via videoconference, the aim is more to get an overview of the functionalities than to master such a tool). Finally, we will discuss any questions participants may have about the applicability of these methods to their subjects.


Workshop program:

Part 1: introduction

  • Introduction to network analysis
  • Network analysis applied to the humanities
  • From the sources to the graph, and back

Part 2: practical example

  • Step by step Gephi tutorial
  • Discussion of participants' eventual projects

Requirement: Installing Gephi is recommended if you want to be able to follow the tutorial step by step. In practice, this is complicated by the workshop's online format: having two screens (or a large one) helps a lot.

Contact: Fernanda Alvares Freire (dh.wkt@uni-rostock.de