CFP Digital Classicist Seminar Berlin 2016/17

May 27, 2016

For the fourth year running, a Digital Classicist seminar series will be held in Berlin. I presented in the series in 2014 and can definitely recommend it.

Deadline: midnight (CET) on 17 July 2016

Submission form:

We are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for the fourth series of the
Digital Classicist Seminar Berlin [1]. This initiative, inspired by and
connected to London’s Digital Classicist Work in Progress Seminar [2], is
organised in association with the German Archaeological Institute and the
Excellence Cluster TOPOI. It will run during the winter term of the
academic year 2016/17.
We invite submissions on any kind of research which employs digital
methods, resources or technologies in an innovative way in order to enable
a better or new understanding of the ancient world. We encourage
contributions not only from Classics but also from the entire field of
“Altertumswissenschaften”, to include the ancient world at large, such as
Egypt and the Near East.
Themes may include digital editions, natural language processing, image
processing and visualisation, linked data and the semantic web, open
access, spatial and network analysis, serious gaming and any other digital
or quantitative methods. We welcome seminar proposals addressing the
application of these methods to individual projects, and particularly
contributions which show how the digital component can facilitate the
crossing of disciplinary boundaries and answering new research questions.
Seminar content should be of interest both to classicists, ancient
historians or archaeologists, as well as to information scientists and
digital humanists, with an academic research agenda relevant to at least
one of these fields.
Anonymised abstracts [3] of **300-500 words max.** (bibliographic
references excluded) should be uploaded by **midnight (CET) on 17 July
2016** using the special submission form [4]. Although we do accept
abstracts written in English as well as in German, the presentations are
expected to be delivered in English. When submitting the same proposal for
consideration to multiple venues, please do let us know via the submission
form. The average acceptance rate is 35%.
Seminars will run **fortnightly on Tuesday evenings (17:15-19:00)** from
October 2016 until February 2017 and will be hosted by the Excellence
Cluster TOPOI and the German Archaeological Institute, both located in
Berlin-Dahlem. The full programme, including the venue of each seminar,
will be finalised and announced in September. As with the previous series,
the video recordings of the presentations will be published online and we
endeavour to provide accommodation for the speakers and contribute towards
their travel expenses.
[3] The anonymised abstract should have all author names, institutions and
references to the authors work removed. This may lead to some references
having to be replaced by “Reference to authors’ work”. The abstract title
and author names with affiliations are entered into the submission system
in separate fields.

Workshop: Network Analysis and the Cultural Heritage Sector, 8 June 2016, Luxembourg

April 22, 2016
This workshop on network analysis in the cultural heritage sector will be of interest if you read until the end of this sentence. It is held alongside the DH Benelux conference in Luxembourg.
Workshop: Network Analysis and the Cultural Heritage Sector, 8 June 2016, Luxembourg
Date: Wednesday, 8th June 2016
Location: University of Luxembourg, Campus Belval
Begin: 9.30
Registration: Attendance is free but participants are asked to register by May 27th. Please contact Marten Düring,
Networks, network metaphors and network visualisations are everywhere. In recent years, they have been increasingly used as omnipresent representations of complexity itself and network-based infrastructures are increasingly shaping the way in which we organise and consume information.
In this workshop we want to explore how network visualisations and infrastructures will change the research and outreach activities of cultural heritage professionals and historians.
Among the questions we seek to discuss during the workshop are for example: How do users benefit from graphs and their visualisation? Which skills do we expect from our users? What can we teach them? Are SNA theories and methods relevant for public-facing applications? How do graph-based applications shape a user’s perception of the documents/objects which constitute the data? How can applications benefit from user engagement? How can applications expand and tap into other resources?
To this end we bring together scholars from the humanities and computer science, from design as well as the natural sciences to present best practices in their fields, to start an interdisciplinary dialogue and to help foster future co-operations.
The workshop is collocated with this year’s DH Benelux conference at the University of Luxembourg (
Confirmed speakers:
Pim van Bree, Geert Kessels, Nodegoat
“From research-based data models to user-oriented interaction models. Conflicting or compatible paths?”
Brian Croxall, Brown University
“Networking Poetry”
Julia Damerow, Erick Peirson, Arizona State University
“Quadruples Online: an update on VogonWeb and Quadriga”
Ingeborg van Vugt, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
“Bound by Books – Visualizing Networks of Books in 17th century Correspondences”
Mohammad Ghoniem, Fintan McGee
“Visual Analytics of Multilayer Digital Humanities Networks”
Lars Wieneke, Daniele Guido, Marten Düring, CVCE Luxembourg
“histograph – graph-based exploration, crowd-based indexation”
Reinhard Schneider, University of Luxembourg
“Visualisation of large scale molecular interaction networks”
Benoit Verjat, SciencesPo, Medialab Paris
Title tba
Donato Ricci, Sciences Po, Medialab Paris
Title tba
Michele Mauri, Politecnico Milano
Title tba
Tommaso Elli, Politecnico Milano
Title tba

Turtles in a spider’s web?!? Network Science with Netlogo tutorial

April 10, 2016

Netlogo is an awesome piece of software! Its main functions are performed by turtles and its code can be written by babies… I rest my case!

Netlogo actually has amazing built-in capabilities for doing network science. The standard open-source free installation of Netlogo allows you to represent, analyse and simulate networks with great ease and a nice visual user interface. It is by far the easiest way of rapidly implementing ideas for social network mechanisms. Indeed, its often called the sketchbook of programming languages. Moreover, learning Netlogo is a great way to get into coding.

So give it a try!

I just wrote a step-by-step tutorial on how to do network science with Netlogo. You will learn how to create a network, how to perform different network layouts, how simulate a network creation process, how to simulate a trade process taking place on the network, and how to analyse the network.

You can access the tutorial through the resources tab of this blog.

Feedback is very welcome!

The Connected Past book episode 2: networks are everywhere and nowhere

April 7, 2016

IMG_2148We are all interested in relationships. Archaeologists and historians constantly talk about how entities (whatever they are interested in) are related to each other, and they sometimes even use network  concepts to describe these relationships. But is this network science? Should we see a network every time we think about past relational phenomena? Of course not! In this post I will discuss how it is crucial for archaeologists and historians to clearly define what they mean by “network”. Otherwise we see networks everywhere and don’t understand what advantages this offers over other approaches. In which case we might as well see networks nowhere at all.

This is the second in a series of posts about our The Connected Past book that was recently published. Have a look at the book on the Oxford University Press website, and use this discount voucher if you wish to order it.

In the introduction to our book we aim to make an argument for the need to clearly define what makes network science special. How does it allow archaeologists and historians to do something they could not do before? We are interested in many past relational phenomena, but when does a network science approach really add something?

To answer these questions we need to first illustrate that there is indeed a need to define network science. Isn’t it good enough to just say that every study that is interested in past relational phenomena and abstracts these using concepts to describe entities and relationships vaguely qualify as network approaches? And that in those research contexts it’s probably worth our time to apply network science?

No! This is just not good enough, because network approaches defined like that are everywhere. Almost any interpretative statement ever made by any archaeologists would then qualify as a network approach.

To make our point, we decided to pick up three books from the library and quote randomly selected sections, gambling that they would fit in this vague definition of network approaches I just wrote. Here’s the first:

In the process of diffusion and creation the isle of Crete played a foremost rôle. Its geographical position enabled the Cretans to take advantage of advances made in the South and East without becoming dependent either on Egypt or on Sumer. At the same time the limited resources of their homeland obliged islanders to turn to maritime trade and thereby to diffuse their civilization along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. (Childe 1925: 24).

And now a second random excerpt from a different book:

The practice of fortification can give a more reliable indication of inter-village or inter-regional hostilities. Nea Nikomedeia may conceivably have had some defensive works in early neolithic times (Rodden 1965, 84), while during the middle neolithic period two sites in Thessaly, Sesklo (Tsountas 1908, 75) and Magula Hadzimissiotiki, had enclosing walls possibly defensive in purpose, although this is not certain. Servia in Macedonia at about this time was surrounded by a ditch, possibly defensive in purpose (Heurtley 1939, 45). The outstanding example of a site apparently fortified during the neolithic period, although in the late phase, is afforded by Dhimini (dig. 18.13, 1). While less impressive in appearance on the ground than it appears in plan, the site has a central area enclosed by several lines of concentric circuit walls of stone. It is clearly the precursor of such early bronze age citadels as Troy. The concentric arrangement emphasising the significance of the central buildings contrasts markedly with the altogether democratic arrangement of the earlier neolithic villages. (Renfrew 1972: 392).

And a third:

A model of the interior of a house from Ovcarovo provides an exact representation of the interior of the houses excavated at that site (Todorova 1978). I will discuss the nature of these models later in this chapter. For the moment, it is of interest to note that the “oven” in the house model has a sloping gabled roof and openings in the front and side walls. Indeed this “oven” looks like a “house” model. “The shape of the ovens is so much like that of the houses, that during excavations models of ovens have sometimes been mistaken for models of dwellings” (ibid., 52). Certainly many house models do have sloping roofs, but it is unclear whether they should be reinterpreted as ovens, or whether the ovens mimic houses, or whether the Ovcarovo house model oven should be reinterpreted as a “shrine”. Whatever the answer to this problem, it seems likely that the centrality of the oven within the house was sometimes reaffirmed by drawing symbolic parallels between houses and ovens. (Hodder 1990: 57–59).

OK, I have to admit these books were not picked up at random. The archaeologists among you will have spotted the names of three well-known archaeologists who are commonly associated with very different ways of interpreting the past, and these are some of their more well-known books. And the excerpts are also not entirely random but were drawn from sections of the books where the archaeological record is described and interpreted, rather than sections setting out the theoretical or methodological frameworks employed.

But that really does not matter, almost any other excerpt from these sections that includes some form of interpretative statement (or from books written by other archaeologists for that matter) would have served our purpose, since the point we wished to make with this exercise is very simple: archaeologists (like historians) are interested in past phenomena that can often be abstracted using relational concepts, and they make assumptions about what entities and relationships mean, what kind of behaviour they allowed for and the implications for understanding the past phenomena they are interested in.

Childe aims to understand the role played by the island of Crete and its inhabitants in the broader Mediterranean/Black Sea region and assumes that the geographical structuring of entities allowed for and determined the spread of innovations, the creation of power dependencies, and the flow of material resources. Renfrew is interested in inter-village and inter-regional hostilities and how this is expressed in architecture and settlement planning. He assumes that changes in the nature of hostilities gave rise to fortifications, which in turn changed the nature of those hostilities themselves. Hodder is interested in the role of house and oven models, and the symbolic parallels between them, and assumes that conceptual analogy is expressed through morphological similarities, allowing him to make interpretations regarding the centrality of the oven within the house.

All three examples explore complex past phenomena defined by multiple interacting entities (e.g. the geographical arrangements, trade routes, and cultural diffusions between Crete, Egypt, and Sumer; the spatial arrangements of regions, villages, and individual buildings; and the symbolic parallels and analogies between houses, ovens, and people) through a more abstract framework of concepts. Entities may or may not be conceptualized as clearly bounded and separable physical things, but they are regarded as analytically distinct for the purposes of the specific arguments being forwarded in each case.

Network concepts can be intuitively appealing and particularly suitable for describing many of the past phenomena we aim to understand. However, to conflate ‘relational’ studies like this with ‘network perspectives’ in the more formal sense risks devaluing both approaches: if almost every past phenomenon can be described using loosely defined ‘network’ concepts we end up seeing networks everywhere, but they will rarely lead to critical insights since it is not clear what advantages they offer over other approaches.

The more formal network perspectives explored in The Connected Past book come with  additional criteria in terms of data requirements and/or method that make them more suitable for addressing certain research questions over others. These criteria need to be understood if formal network perspectives are to fulfil their potential of contributing new perspectives on the past.


Next time I will continue this argument by introducing a definition of network science that clearly positions it within the archaeologist and historian’s toolbox: it makes clear what’s so special about network science that it deserves writing a book about.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Towards best practice guidelines for network science in archaeology (reblogged)

March 31, 2016

(reblogged from post of 3/10/15 and modified)

Let’s be honest: networks aren’t really the right answer for many research problems. But how can we evaluate this and do network science properly. This is a discussion post about this topics with a preliminary list of best practice guidelines. I will give a presentation on this topic at the CAA in Oslo on Friday at 8:30AM session S16 but would like to stimulate discussion online as well, so engage!!!!! Get in touch, blog, tweet, comment.

It is uninformative for archaeologists and historians to use formal network methods as a hammer to hit every nail we can find with, just because we can. Specific formal network methods should preferably be selected in light of their ability to lead to insights that other approaches cannot offer. But what determines this usefulness of particular formal network methods for those studying the past? Is it the convenient representation of entities such as humans, islands, ports and the past interactions between them as dots and lines? Or is it the good fit between the past phenomena of trade, transportation and communication, with their abstraction as network concepts? Although these reasons might be sufficient to lead scholars to consider using formal network methods for addressing their research aims, they are not sufficient to motivate the adoption of specific network techniques.

I strongly believe that network science has something new to add to our disciplines, but a lot of work still needs to be done to leverage this promise and make it productive. To help us in this I think four things are needed:

  • Communities and events that provide a discussion platform for exploring this potential. The Connected Past and the Historical Networks Research communities have been providing venues for this task, and hopefully many more will follow.
  • Good practical examples should be published to give scholars an idea of how network science techniques could be beneficial in their own work, and to stimulate them to think creatively about applying these formal methods. The Connected Past publications alongside many others aim to serve this purpose.
  • These early examples should not just be accepted at face value but should be critiqued. To enable this, training should be provided to archaeologists and historians. Annual workshops have been provided by The Connected Past and the Historical Networks Research communities and at the CAA conference.
  • Finally, a community of archaeologists and historians should develop guidelines to best scientific practice in using these techniques. This could follow the format of the ADS guides to good practice.

I would like to call upon everyone interested in the use of network science for the study of the past to contribute to the development of these guidelines. Get in touch, blog, tweet, comment. Here is my attempt to develop a few very broad guidelines to good practice:

  • Network science techniques are methodological tools with clear rules and limitations.
  • Archaeologists could be provided with guides to good practice and archaeological examples, making them able to understand what kinds of questions different network science techniques are designed to answer and to evaluate whether it allows them to achieve their research aims. To do this hardly any familiarity with mathematical and computational techniques is required, only a willingness to explore the potential of a scientific method.
  • An evaluation of the potential contribution of network methods to addressing a particular research problem might be enhanced by working explicitly through the network science research process (Brandes et al. 2013), which again does not require much technical skills.
  • However, once archaeologists have decided to apply a specific network science technique, then a thorough understanding of the technical underpinnings of this technique is not an option but a prerequisite for a critical interpretation of its results. Archaeologists could be aided in this process by multi-disciplinary engagement and collaboration where possible.
  • Network concepts developed in network science are associated with specified data requirements, which should be acknowledged by the archaeologists adopting them. If the data requirements cannot be identified in empirical or simulated data then the network concepts loose all explanatory value.
  • When developing new network concepts, one should formulate network data specifications such that it becomes clear how the concept differs from exisiting concepts.
  • Formulating specifications of how network concepts are represented in network data allows for different conceptualisations of the same past phenomenon to be compared and possibly falsified.
  • A shift in perspective from the study of static structures to the emergence of empirical observations and past phenomena might be needed.
  • Confirmatory network science techniques offer archaeologists an approach to understanding how large-scale patterns emerge through the particular interactions of individual agents or relationships.
  • Confirmatory network science techniques can only be usefully applied when specifications are formulated of how the network concepts used should be represented as network data.
  • Confirmatory network science techniques require one to explicitly acknowledge the dynamic nature of past processes and the dynamic assumptions underlying the definition of ties. Because of this, I believe these techniques reveal the potential contribution of network science for archaeology far more than the exploratory network techniques.
  • The past systems we study were governed by dynamic phenomena and the network approach used to understand these phenomena should reflect their changeable nature.
  • Only in cases with a small number of nodes and where dependence assumptions gave rise to specific easily visually identifiable patterns, were network visualisations preferable over other types of data representation for communication purposes.
  • Even in cases where network science techniques do not offer additional functionality compared to other more common archaeological techniques, it could still lead to interesting insights by forcing one to explore a dataset or hypothesis through the lens of one’s assumptions about why and which relationships matter.
  • If a method is needed where the boundaries of entities are ill-defined and fluid, and where one argues these can not under any circumstances be tied down for analytical purposes, then network science does not offer the solution.
  • Network science can never be separated from the archaeological theoretical motivations of how and why certain archaeological evidence allows one to better understand a past phenomenon.
  • Some past processes are unknowable, due to our current techniques and datasets. All archaeological approaches suffer from this disadvantage and network science is no exception.

The Connected Past edited volume: now available from Oxford University Press! (discount voucher)

March 28, 2016

IMG_2135The most eagerly awaited book of the last decade is finally here! We are delighted to announce the publication of our The Connected Past volume: 200 pages of pure networky joy! Over the coming weeks I will write a series of blog posts about all the great work in the book. Expect adventures full of romance, frustration, epic struggles and humor. Click here to be redirected to the Oxford University Press website. Consider buying the book for your library or yourself. Click here to download a discount voucher to get the book cheaper.

The Connected Past. Challenges to Network Studies in Archaeology and History

Edited by Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar, and Fiona Coward

  • Features a comprehensive volume introduction which explains what network science is, why it is of interest for studying the past, and outlines the challenges faced when using network science in archaeology and history
  • Provides archaeologists and historians with a selection of the methodological and conceptual tools they need to compare and evaluate the strengths and limitations of different network approaches
  • Features international contributors from a range of disciplines (archaeology, history, physics, and mathematics) who are all pioneers in applying network perspectives to the study of the past
  • Presents a solid set of case studies which demonstrate how the challenges of applying network science perspectives to archaeological and historical datasets are overcome

One of the most exciting recent developments in archaeology and history has been the adoption of new perspectives which see human societies in the past—as in the present—as made up of networks of interlinked individuals. This view of people as always connected through physical and conceptual networks along which resources, information, and disease flow, requires archaeologists and historians to use new methods to understand how these networks form, function, and change over time. The Connected Past provides a constructive methodological and theoretical critique of the growth in research applying network perspectives in archaeology and history, and considers the unique challenges presented by datasets in these disciplines, including the fragmentary and material nature of such data and the functioning and change of social processes over long timespans. An international and multidisciplinary range of scholars debate both the rationale and practicalities of applying network methodologies, addressing the merits and drawbacks of specific techniques of analysis for a range of datasets and research questions, and demonstrating their approaches with concrete case studies and detailed illustrations. As well as revealing the valuable contributions archaeologists and historians can make to network science, the volume represents a crucial step towards the development of best practice in the field, especially in exploring the interactions between social and material elements of networks, and long-term network evolution.

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Contributors
Part I: Challenging Network Methods and Theories
1: Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar, Fiona Coward: Introduction: Challenging Network Perspectives on the Past
2: Carl Knappett: Networks in Archaeology: Between Scientific Method and Humanistic Metaphor
3: Astrid Van Oyen: Networks or Work-Nets? Actor-Network Theory and Multiple Social Topologies in the Production of Roman Terra Sigillata
Part II: Challenging Network Analysis of Archaeological and Historical Data
4: Matthew A. Peeples, Barbara J. Mills, W. Randall Haas, Jr., Jeffery J. Clark, and John M. Roberts, Jr.: Analytical Challenges for the Application of Social Network Analysis in Archaeology
5: Marten Düring: How Reliable are Centrality Measures for Data Collected from Fragmentary and Heterogeneous Historical Sources? A Case Study
6: Constantinos Tsirogiannis and Christos Tsirogiannis: Uncovering the Hidden Routes: Algorithms for Identifying Paths and Missing Links in Trade Networks
Part III: Challenging Network Models
7: Ray Rivers: Can Archaeological Models Always Fulfil our Prejudices?
8: Tim Evans: Which Network Model Should I Use? Towards a Quantitative Comparison of Spatial Network Models in Archaeology
9: Anne Kandler and Fabio Caccioli: Networks, Homophily, and the Spread of Innovations

Awesome archaeological networks tutorial using Visone

March 15, 2016

visone_logoTime to learn! If you ever thought about rolling up your sleeves and finally getting to do some actual network analysis then here is your chance: our new archaeological networks tutorial using Visone is out! The tutorial will teach you how to visualise, explore and analyse networks using the free-to-use Visone software. It will guide you through a case study on Maya obsidian networks in Mesoamerica by Golitko and colleagues. The tutorial is created by my colleague Daniel Weidele and I. Check out the tutorial on the resources tab of this blog.


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