One of the awesome things about my job is that I get to travel around and talk to people about the stuff I love (read “bore people by ranting about a niche interest”). This week I am in Oxford and I will be giving two talks tomorrow (10 February 2016). So if you are in the neighbourhood and are prepared to be talked to about networks and Romans, come along!
At 1pm I will give a talk at the Institute of Archaeology as part of the Roman Discussion Forum seminar series. The talk is called “Introducing MERCURY: an agent-based network model of ceramic distribution for studying Roman economic integration”. You can get the slides here.
At 5pm I will give a talk at Corpus Christi college as part of their classics seminar series. The talk is called ” The potential of network science for archaeology illustrated through a network study of the Roman economy”. You can get the slides here.
Classics and archaeology are fiercely complimentary disciplines and I love playing a balancing act between the two. This of course means: playing with networks by drawing on both written and textual sources of the ancient world. The use of network science in Classics is really taking off, as much as it is in Archaeology. This is reflected in work by Irad Malkin in his book ‘A Small Greek World‘ and by the HESTIA team including Elton Barker who just published a volume entitled ‘New Worlds from Old Texts‘. Both will present in the series, as will I. So do come along if you can.
Recently heard about the below call for papers for a seminar on visualising historical linguistic and literary networks. Might be of interest.
LINGUISTIC AND LITERARY CARTOGRAPHIES: VISUALISING LINGUISTIC AND LITERARY NETWORKS- ESSE SEMINAR
Marina Dossena, Univerrsity of Bergamo, Italy, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Corbett, University of Macau, Macao SAR, email@example.com
This seminar to be held as part of the 12th ESSE conference in Kosice, Slovakia (29th August to 2nd September 2014), invites participation from scholars involved in the visualisation of linguistic, literary and historical relationships. There has recently been an upsurge of interest in linguistic and literary cartographies, and in particular the use of digital media to map linguistic change, literary data and historical networks. The seminar offers an opportunity for researchers this area to showcase their work in progress, and to share good practice in the development of methodologies and software. We anticipate that the session will be of interest to those working in the areas of historical corpora, correspondence and social networks, lexicography and the digital humanities.
We invite abstract submissions (max 200 words) for individual paper presentations by 28 February 2014 directly to the conveners (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com ). The following information should be included in the abstracts:
Name & Surname
Title of paper
Equipment needed (all seminar rooms will be equipped with a computer and a projector)
According to the conference guidelines, presenters will be asked to circulate reduced versions of their papers in advance of the seminar, and they will have 15 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for discussions.Proponents will be informed about the acceptance of their papers by 31 March 2014, and ESSE conference registration will open on 1 April 2014.Please do feel free to contact the seminar conveners in case you have any queries.
Next Tuesday (21-01-2014) Stefani Crabtree will give a talk entitled ‘A Tale of Two Villages: How Food Exchange Led to Aggregation in the American Southwest’ in the Archaeological Computing Research Group here in Southampton. This talk will be livestreamed via this URL, so no reason not to watch this promising talk! Stef’s work will be of interest to all of us who love their networks, adore agent-based-modelling, have a passion for the archaeology of the US Southwest … or those who just enjoy a great talk by an inspiring researcher.
When? Tuesday 21 January 2014 5pm GMT
Where? Southampton and online! Livestream URL
Stefani’s abstract is attached below, and have a look at the poster for her talk by clicking on the image above.
Want to know more about the research done at the Archaeological Computing Research Group? We’ve been pretty good in sharing our work on our group’s blog lately, so check it out there!
In this talk I use computer simulation to explore the extent to which food-sharing practices would have been instrumental for the survival of Ancestral Pueblo people across the patchy landscape of the Prehispanic American Southwest. Social networks would have created stable bonds among these exchanging individuals, further helping the survival of those individuals and their progeny. Specifically, I engage Sahlins’s notion of balanced reciprocal exchange networks (BRN; when unrelated individuals rely upon reputation building to inform exchange relationships) within the experimental test-bed of the Village Ecodynamics Project’s agent-based simulation.
The Digital Classicist has become a bit of an institution, offering great examples of how and why classicists should not necessariy be afraid to use modern technology. The series is gearing up for another year of seminars, the call for papers is now open with a 9 March deadline. The organisation, audience, venue and presenters are generally awesome, so I can only recommend submitting an abstract. More info below or on their website.
The Digital Classicist London seminars have since 2006 provided a forum for research into the ancient world that employs digital and other quantitative methods. The seminars, hosted by the Institute of Classical Studies, are on Friday afternoons from June to mid-August in Senate House, London.
We welcome contributions from students as well as from established researchers and practitioners. We welcome high-quality papers discussing individual projects and their immediate context, but also accommodate broader theoretical consideration of the use of digital technology in Classical studies. The content should be of interest both to classicists, ancient historians or archaeologists, and to information specialists or digital humanists, and should have an academic research agenda relevant to at least one of those fields.
There is a budget to assist with travel to London (usually from within the UK, but we have occasionally been able to assist international presenters to attend).
To submit a proposal for consideration, email an abstract of approximately 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight UTC on March 9th, 2014.
Here is a common plot in sci-fi literature and movies (based on a popular physics model): the world you know is but one in an endless range of parallel universes, where each one is slightly different. Who would ever have thought this would be a good starting point for archaeological discussions? Yet the meeting in Durham I recently attended showed that parallel universes might have more in common with archaeology than we think.
(this review was originally published as a guest post on Electric Archaeology, please join discussion there)
I was invited by Rune Rattenborg to join a workshop in Durham called ‘A Thousand Worlds: Network Models in Archaeology’. This concept of a thousand worlds can be interpreted in an archaeological research context in different ways. On the one hand, and most similar to the sci-fi parallel universes plot, you could think about the many different reconstructions of past realities that could all explain a single archaeological pattern. Literally thousands of hypotheses could be raised to explain a certain pattern, each of them suggesting different mechanisms driving human behaviour and ultimately its expression in the archaeological record. On the other hand, you could think about the many academic perspectives archaeologists find useful for understanding the past. Perspectives ranging from highly quantitative (you can place me in that camp) to very qualitative, from local to global, from scientific to philosophical, and from an explicitly present-day perspective to attempting to recreate past perspectives. Each one of these is a valid way of thinking about past human behaviour and behavioural change (or rather every configuration or combination of these perspectives).
Both of these interpretations motivated Rune to title his workshop ‘A Thousand Worlds’. He noticed that archaeologists interested in questions of past connectivity and those of us using network perspectives often address the challenges we are faced with in very different ways. The only common ground of most network perspectives seems to be that the relationships between entities are considered crucial to understanding the behaviour of these entities. For example, the romantic relationship between two individuals will affect the decision to stay in and watch a Hugh Grant romantic comedy or to go out for a beer with the guys. But Rune also noticed that each perspective allows for a wide variety of reconstructions of past realities. These two issues seem to confuse archaeologists who might be interested in using such a network perspective in their archaeological research. I totally agree with Rune’s motivation to create some order in this chaos. The main questions of this workshop therefore were: what different network perspectives are out there? What rules govern them? What do they allow us to do that we could not do before? And what are their limitations?
To some extent the meeting was successful in addressing these questions. A number of very different perspectives were discussed by selected proponents: I introduced an extremely formal network science approach, which was discussed rather more pragmatically by Anna Collar; Michelle de Gruchy highlighted some interesting challenges in a geographical context; another group of presenters (Kristoffer Damgaard, Eivind Heldaas Seland, Sofie Laurine Albris, Rune Rattenborg) used the concept of connectivity and explored how it could be reflected in archaeological and literary sources. Finally Ronan O’Donnell introduced the actor-network theory (ANT) perspective through a fascinating case study on a post-Medieval landscape in Northumberland, UK, from which the strong difference between the aims of the ANT and network science research perspectives became particularly clear.
Nevertheless, by the end of the meeting it became clear that we were not entirely successful in addressing the many questions we set out to answer. Eivind Heldaas Seland skilfully summarised each paper and formulated three key questions that require more attention: how can these different perspectives and approaches usefully work together? What is the added value of some of these compared to a more traditional description of our sources? How can we better use these perspectives in the future? The fact that we were unsuccessful at addressing these questions shows how complex and non-trivial they are (and we also ran out of discussion time). But for what it’s worth, I take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on these questions, combined with some of the points I picked up from others during the discussion.
First of all, I believe the first question presents the false impression that the different network perspectives can and need to work together. I would argue that, many network perspectives do not need to and most of them do not work well together at all. This is because some of them (like ANT and network science) are designed to address very different questions. But even those approaches that have more in common, like the quantitative vs. qualitative use of network science, don’t necessarily need to be combined into an almighty network approach. There is no need for a great unifying theory or method in archaeology, not even for one that just focuses on questions of connectivity. Rather, I consider the different network perspectives as tools that function according to certain rules, and once these rules are known the tools have a potential to make small but crucial contributions to our knowledge of the past. I believe that if we are to ever achieve the full potential of these exciting new approaches for archaeology we will need to first critically explore them in isolation.
Secondly, the added value of these perspectives is more obvious than how they should be applied. Many in the audience seemed to agree that the concept of the network itself is a powerful tool to think with. It forces us to consider the potentially important role played by relationships between entities (however defined: humans, molecules, parallel universes), which might allow us to ask and answer new questions. For me the added value lies in the recognition that all archaeologists make assumptions about the nature of such relationships when they formulate hypotheses about past phenomena. It can be useful to think about these assumptions in terms of network concepts and, most importantly, there is a real need to be critically aware of their existence and formulate them clearly. Network science can help archaeologists to think about their assumptions of past relationships, to formally express them (in words and/or in numbers), and to evaluate their implications for past behavioural change and its reflection in the archaeological record.
Finally, the “better use” of such approaches and perspectives is not optional, it is necessary if they are ever to become useful within an archaeological research context. However, a critical use and application is not just a critical awareness of the rules that govern them. Rather, an equal if not larger effort should be afforded to the archaeological interpretation of network science results, or the differences in the interpretative process that a networks perspective implies. I believe none of the scholars that attended the Durham meeting would disagree with that. The studies they presented could be roughly divided into two groups: those that THINK through network and those that DO networks. I believe the former is more important than the latter, because there can be no doing without thinking. Although this sounds like an obvious statement it is worth emphasising it because the use of quantitative network analysis is too often treated like a “black box” approach, which it is not. Every network science study in archaeology, no matter how quantitative, aims to better understand (aspects of) past phenomena. When doing so, the scholar formulates a hypothesis, expresses their assumptions about past relationships and their roles, or at least clearly defines what they mean by the network concepts they use. Only after this phase of network thinking can a scholar proceed to network doing, which involves representing hypotheses/assumptions/the archaeological record as network data (points and lines, and what they mean). The ability to use advanced quantitative tools should not be an excuse for the post-hoc imposition of a theoretical framework that fits the results nicely; nor should the appeal of using fashionable network concepts lead to reluctance to formally express what is meant by them and to evaluate their implications for understanding past phenomena.
Even though none of the three key questions about the role of the networks perspective in archaeology can be conclusively answered at this time, I felt that its future is nevertheless bright. The diversity of possible approaches and perspectives is encouraging and will lead to critical research that promises to help archaeologists better evaluate what approach is useful for their studies of past connectivity, and what is not. Some of these approaches might require multi-disciplinary collaboration, especially the more scary and maths-heavy techniques in the network science toolbox. But archaeologists should never be tempted to outsource the network thinking part of the process. Critical knowledge of the archaeological literature and data leads to an awareness of the relevant research questions, and the same knowledge will lead to valuable interpretations of analytical results and research processes. There might be a thousand pasts out there, and there might be a thousand ways of reaching them, but this quest will always need to be undertaken by archaeologists.
A fascinating set of papers is announced for this year’s “Networks and regulation” seminar series held in Paris and organised by Claire Lemercier, Emmanuel Lazega and Julien Brailly. If you are in Paris during any one of these dates then do attend these talks, some great speakers in there:
Mercredi 20 Novembre : Johannes Glueckler, Universität Heidelberg (16h-18h) “Organized Networks and the Creation of Network Goods”
Lundi 25 Novembre : Mark Mizruchi, University of Michigan (16h-18h) “Political Economy and Network Analysis: Further Thoughts on Their Connections”
Lundi 9 Décembre : Ulrik Brandes, Universität Konstanz (16h-18h) “Centrality in Networks: Measurement and Social Theory”
Lundi 20 janvier : Pierre Gervais, Université Paris-3, Guillaume Daudin, Université Paris-Dauphine (16h-18h) “Est-ce que tout compte? Essai de mesure statistique de l’effort relatif d’enregistrement dans quelques comptabilités marchandes du 18e siècle”
Lundi 3 février : Gabriel Garrote, Université Lumière-Lyon 2 (16h-18h) “Une relation triangulaire : familles – territoire – institutions (sagas notabiliaires dans le Rhône du premier 19e siècle)”
Lundi 10 mars : Valery Yakubovitch, ESSEC (16h-18h) “Formal Foci and Informal Ties in Organizations: the Problem of Disembeddedness”
Lundi 12 mai : Laura Prota et Maria P. Vitale, Università degli Studi di Salerno (16h-18h) “A network perspective to explore dynamic cooperative behaviors in Italian technological clusters”
Lundi 16 juin : Bernie Hogan, Oxford Internet Institute (16h-18h) “The emergence of interactive social networks: Implications for users, designers and researchers”
Center for the Sociology of Organizations, 19 rue Amélie, 75007 Paris (metro La Tour-Maubourg – ring the bell in the street, then first room on the left)
Correlating Human Sensory Experience with Physical Phenomena Using Dependency Structures, Cognitive Semantics, and (Semi-)Automatic Linguistic Analysis: Bridging the gap between the objective world and subjective reality
A reminder of the Leipzig eHumanities Seminar series call for papers, deadline 15 August.
The Leipzig eHumanities Seminar established a forum for the discussion of digital methods applied within the Humanities. Topics include text mining, machine learning, network analysis, time series, sentiment analysis, agent-based modelling, or efficient visualization of massive and humanities relevant data.
The seminars take place every Wednesday afternoon (3:15 PM – 4:45 PM) from October until end of January at the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science in Leipzig, Germany. All accepted papers will be published in an online volume. Furthermore, a small budget for travel cost reimbursements is available.
Abstracts of no more than 1000 words should be sent by August, 15th, 2013 to email@example.com.
Notifications and program announcements will be sent by the end of August.
If you have any questions please contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seminar board (in alphabetical order):
• Marco Büchler (Natural Language Processing Group),
• Elisabeth Burr (Digital Romance Linguistics),
• Gregory Crane (Digital Classics, Digital Libraries),
• Klaus-Peter Fähnrich (Super Computing Centre),
• Christian Fandrych (German as a Foreign Language Group),
• Sabine Griese (Medieval German Studies);
• Gerhard Heyer (Natural Language Processing),
• Gerik Scheuermann (Visualisation Group),
• Ulrich Johannes Schneider (Cultural Studies, University Library).
As the organiser of the Hestia2 seminar in Southampton I could write about our initial struggle to find a good format, my fight with the university to book a seminar room in a completely booked out campus, discussions with our financial support staff to figure out a balanced budget, the technical flaws with our livestream feed, and of course the many very human feelings like “no-one will turn up!?!” and “what shirt should I wear?”. But none of that would be very interesting to read, and all of these concerns are now firmly pushed to the back of my mind and replaced by the feeling that this seminar was a success!
It will not come as a surprise that the organiser thinks his own event was a success. So let me at least try to come up with some objective-sounding arguments why this was in fact the case.
Multi-disciplinarity: organising a multi-disciplinary event is always risky. You need to address a very diverse target audience and convince them that the topics covered and the discussions will be of interest. People with different backgrounds also tend to talk in different languages: physicists will talk “maths”, classicists will talk “Greek/Roman”, archaeologists will talk “stuff”. The Hestia2 seminar was such a multi-disciplinary event. It was attended by classicists, historians, archaeologists, physicists and designers from the academic, commercial and governmental sectors. Despite this diversity the discussions very often converged into common interests. These included how large datasets like those held by the Ordnance Survey and the Historic Environment Records (HERs) could be usefully combined using new technologies, or how uncertainty about data can be formally expressed and visualised. Finding such common grounds was very much thanks to the chairs of our session. For example, Max Schich confronted the multi-disciplinary background of our audience directly when he asked to what extent individuals need to have skills and knowledge traditionally associated with different disciplines and professions to allow them to apply linked data and network techniques critically and usefully. This question drew very diverse reactions from the audience. Some felt that our educational system should allow for complete diversity and customisations of skills and knowledge, others (and I am part of this particular camp) believe that collaboration is the key, that field specialists should remain specialists but be able to collaborate with specialists in other fields by having some very basic understanding of the other’s “language”, approaches and questions.
Exploration: Hestia2 is not about showing off a great piece of work our team did a few years ago. It’s about learning from different projects’, institutions’ and individuals’ experiences with using innovative technologies to understanding conceptions of space. It’s about exploring the potential of such techniques for providing innovative insights into old datasets, or for allowing us to ask new questions of our data. The Southampton seminar definitely had that exploratory vibe. Very different techniques and projects were presented. The first three talks very much set the scene by giving an overview of different approaches. Max Schich introduced us to networks, Alex Godden provided an insight into the issues surrounding the aggregation and management of historical/archaeological data, and John Goodwin showed how the Ordnance Survey (OS) is implementing linked data. The discussions that followed showed a genuine interest in innovative approaches but also a constant concern with getting at the fundamental issues that keep all this innovation together. For example, in our discussion we never restricted ourselves to asking how something could be done, but always focused on why we should do it in the first place. The question of why HER data could not be seamlessly linked with OS data, for example, was not because of technological restrictions but concerns about protecting cultural heritage and also commercial concerns. Once such concerns were addressed we turned our attention to how combining such diverse datasets could allow us to ask new research questions, or could lead to a better management of historical resources.
Weather: it has sunny and hot. That makes every event an instant success!
I am very much looking forward to the second Hestia2 seminar in Stanford, where I will be able to put my feet up a little and enjoy another round of stimulating multi-disciplinary exploration.