Considering I had no idea what network analysis was when I decided to do this optional module, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve learned.
In reading the articles on network analysis, I found it most interesting that a methodology intended for concrete fact has been applied to interpretation-based studies like those in the humanities. The super organized part of my brain loves the idea of network analysis, especially considering a lot of my research concerns relationships between groups and individuals. However, I also appreciate Scott Weingart’s blog post about network analysis, as it emphasizes the limitations of the methodology when applied to humanist data sets. The analogy of the hammer and the nail is fairly apt. As someone who is new to network analysis, I understand his assertion that everything looks like a nail, but I think that kind of energy is useful for manipulating network algorithms to fit the humanities.
We see this reflected in the sites the module asked us to explore. I found Six Degrees of Francis Bacon inspiring, as well as Linked Jazz and Quantifying Kissinger. Six Degrees especially though is fascinating as it functions as continuously evolving database founded on collaboration to show relationships. Showing the interconnected social network of Francis Bacon and many others could have a wild amount of applications for early modern scholars. Seeing live examples of digital humanities network analysis just makes me think of all the ways I could possibly utilize it myself. As someone studying eastern woodlands Indigenous history of the 18th century, I am very familiar with the weight that kinship ties had among Native American communities. These ties went beyond family; they not only connected village to village and nation to nation, but connected villages to European traders. I would love to apply network analysis to these relationships to extend the research on kinship ties, but something is telling me I’m going to have to teach myself to use Gephi better.
SPEAKING of Gephi. What a process it was to even get the program downloaded. I ran into the (apparently) common error that it wasn’t recognizing Java, even though I had Java downloaded. So after jumping through the hoops of reworking the config file and then figuring out how to download the csv files from Github, I was finally in business (I don’t know why I was having so much trouble, apparently it was just a No Bones day). Working with Gephi was actually pretty easy once I got it started up. I think I need to do more reading in order to get more context on how exactly it can be applied to the humanities and how to incorporate it into different projects, but, like QGIS, I’ll probably find a use for it eventually and then give myself an excuse to crash course the program.