Presentation at CeRCH KCL

I am delighted to announce that next Tuesday 14 February (Valentines day!) I will be giving a seminar at the Centre for e-Research at King’s College London. If you are around at all please do not hesitate to drop by. The seminar will take place at 6:15pm in the Anatomy Theatre and Museum, King’s College London. For more information and to register, please go to the seminar website.

As always I will make my slides available here after the seminar.

Here is the extended abstract of my talk.

Networks of networks: a critical review of formal network methods in archaeology through citation network analysis and close reading

Methods and theories seem to fade in and out of fashion constantly. Some are lucky enough to find a large audience thanks to the efforts of pioneering adopters whilst others are doomed to be forgotten despite of the zealous efforts of their proponents. But how does a new idea emerge in a discipline, where did it originate and how does it evolve in a new research context? The archaeological use of formal network methods which has only recently become more popular forms a particularly suitable case to explore such academic processes. This paper will for the first time trace the academic traditions, network concepts, models and techniques that have been most influential to archaeologists. I will do this by combining a close reading of published archaeological network applications with citation network analysis techniques (Batagelj 2003; Hummon and Doreian 1989; White 2011), an approach that has not been applied to archaeological literature before.

This paper will argue that archaeological network researchers are not well networked themselves, resulting in a limited and sometimes uncritical adoption of formal network methods within the archaeological discipline. This seems to have followed largely from a general unawareness of the historicity of network-based approaches which span at least eight decades of multi-disciplinary research. Many network analytical techniques that would only find a broader use in the last 15 years were in fact introduced in the archaeological discipline as early as the 1970s. The unawareness of alternative approaches is most prominent in recent archaeological applications of formal network methods, which show a tendency of adopting techniques and models that were fashionable at the time of publication rather than exploring other archaeological and non-archaeological approaches. This paper does not aim to argue that every archaeological network study should include a historiography. It merely wishes to stress the need to explore the full range of existing network techniques and models. I will illustrate that knowledge of the diversity of archaeological and non-archaeological network methods is crucial to their critical application and modification within archaeological research contexts.

The paper concludes that in order to move towards richer archaeological applications of formal network methods archaeological network analysts should become better networked both within and outside their discipline. The existing archaeological applications of network analysis show clear indications of methods with great potential for our discipline and methods that will remain largely fruitless, and archaeologists should become aware of these advances within their discipline. The development of original archaeological network methods should be driven by archaeological research problems and a broad knowledge of formal network methods developed in different disciplines. Also, given the wide availability of large datasets a citation network analysis of scientific literature is considered particularly suitable to guide a close reading and explore the emergence and evolution of new ideas.

References cited:
Batagelj, V. 2003. Efficient Algorithms for Citation Network Analysis. Arxiv preprint cs/0309023, pp.1-27.
Irwin-Williams, C. 1977. A network model for the analysis of Prehistoric trade in T. K. Earle and Ericson, J. eds., Exchange systems in Prehistory. New York: Academic Press, pp. 141-151.
Hummon, N.P. & Dereian, P. 1989. Connectivity in a citation network: The development of DNA theory. Social Networks, 11(1), pp.39–63.
White, H.D. 2011. Scientific and scholarly networks in J. Scott and Carrington, P. J. eds., The SAGE handbook of social network analysis. London: Sage.


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