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Historical Network Analysis | DataNinjas Posts

Spaghetti monster survey (1)

Today we are introducing a new noodly feature: the one and only spaghetti monster survey! The goal: invite SNA-minded historians (like Marten Düring) and archaeologists to fill out a short interview with SNA (and perhaps not so SNA-) related questions. This way, you, our dear readers, get an idea of what is going on in our little specialized community, and you’re not just stuck with posts in which we ramble on about Daniel Craig and vagina parades. Yo bitches gots to learn (I might be watching a little too much Orange is the New Black…). Marten Düring Our first volunteer is Marten Düring, who works at the Centre virtuel de la connaissance sur l’Europe in Luxemburg (land of cheap gas and tax deals), and is one of the brains behind the Historical Network Research platform. Give him a cheer, folks! Name: Marten Düring Year of birth: I quite like option b 🙂 [option b: I was not born, I literally split off from my creator’s brain. I am what you call ‘an alien’ sent from Laicos Krowten (the galaxy you label UDFy-38135539) to infiltrate the human race. SNA is simply a hobby. Due to our government’s overly-successful mitosis program, we are dealing with a food crisis at home, and I have come here to learn your ways of dealing with this problem. Although it has been a highly disappointing journey in that respect so far, I have come to appreciate your delicate cuisine. I am a great fan of bubblegum…

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Sex sells

Sex sells. It has been proven by very brainy people like ourselves, that if something is straddled by a busty blond in a skimpy bikini with legs up to her ass, chances are high the guy will buy. Women need a little extra stimulus, apparently, but hand them a pair of boxer shorts to fondle, and they max out those credit cards faster than you can blink. And you probably won’t be getting those boxers back either. (I’ve been dying to test if this is true. I want a new iPhone, mine’s hanging on a thread since I dropped it one to many times. But they’re so damn expensive, I keep putting it off. So I’ve been hanging around the local superstore’s phone department the past couple of weeks, waiting for a husky sales guy to flash me the rim of his tighty wighties while reaching for something on the top shelf so I can casually brush my fingers against it, hoping this will tip me over the edge. But no luck so far. The main reasons being a) husky guys don’t work in geeky chain stores, and b) if there were a husky sales guy, I’d be too shy to ask him to reach for something on the top shelf). So, like I said in the previous post: my first idea for the YouReCa challenge was sex. With only six minutes to entertain and educate the audience, we needed something everyone was familiar with. Luckily, Romans loved sex. And…

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Challenge accepted!

Science Slam YouReCa Challenge 2014 You may have heard a rumor here or there, and yes, it’s true, your beloved Data Ninjas rocked a Science Slam. What is this perversion, slamming science, you ask? Well, if you know us at all, you know that’s what we do: we make fun of our research. Not only laugh at it, but also just simply, plainly, down-to-earthly, ever-so-innocently make it fun. Because what’s the fun in doing research every day, if it isn’t fun? And with that last sentence you have your proof: God does everything for a reason, and there’s a reason he didn’t make us philosophists. Er, philosophers. Guess there’s a reason he didn’t make us literary geniuses as well… So, this Science Slam YouReCa Challenge 2014: it’s organized by the KU Leuven’s career center every year, and the idea behind it is to promote science communication. Several emails had been sent out, urging young researchers to apply, which I all steadily ignored because of my not so latent suffering of flop sweat (and this is not meant in the second sense provided by Urban Dictionary). I should have known that I could not trust my attention-addicted academic twin though. One nice and sunny day, somewhere in October, innocently minding my own networky business while I’m enjoying a Pop Tart or a spoon of frosting no doubt (spaghetti monsters require a lot of energy!), my iMessage starts bleeping with the usual London drivel, during which she casually drops the line ‘I…

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Still looking for somewhere to unwind in 2015? Why not do a conference – city trip combo? Transportation costs are on the house! If your project/grant covers them of course, otherwise don’t bother – just go on a proper vacation. And don’t start that ‘I don’t have time for vacation’ crap. Bullshit. Cut your Twitter and Tinder time in half and you’ve already got three weeks to spare. Challenge the Past/Diversify the Future: A Critical Approach to Visual and Multi-SensoryRepresentations for History and Culture in Gothenburg (March 19-21 2015) Multi-sensory representations?! I don’t think I want to know what an average Egyptian DIY-mud-and-poo-brick house smelt like. Or taste the notorious Roman fish gut seasoning. But there’s more brainy stuff to explore here. Posh UK-based Ninja is part of a panel that will discuss error and subjectivity in our sources. Her presentation will focus on spaghetti monsters of course. She’s going to talk about the instinctivity (I’m making up words again, right?) of layouts and the problem of statictivity (maybe I should start my own dictionary) of networks and how to deal with time lapse. And there’s the Volvo museum. Now who’d wanna miss out on that?! Computer Applicationsand Quantitative Methods in Archaeology in Siena (March 30 – April 3 2015) This year’s Woodstock for archaeologists who like to go digital is held in Siena. Surrounded by rolling Tuscan hills, ancient vineyards, quirky medieval towns and Renaissance masterpieces all just a few miles away… Need I say more?! To Mine and to Tie:Text…

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What’s in a name?*

*As someone who’s been working on onomastics – That’s a fancy word that means that I study names. Sometimes we have to use fancy words such as onomastics in writing, or they just won’t take us seriously. It’s kind of sad actually: academia would be so much more fun (not that it isn’t fun now, whoa! The times I’ve wet myself laughing… You’d think I’d have learnt my lesson by now and be running around with Tena’s, but I can be stubborn sometimes. But so there’s no limit to fun, in my opinion, and I can also be greedy, so yeah, academia could be so much more fun) if they’d let you pop in a joke or two or add some drama. What’s wrong with putting a smile on a person’s face while sharing groundbreaking, earth-core-shaking, life-as-we-know-it-transforming results? (see, that’s the drama I’m talking about. Yes, of course, what we do here in our cold and drab whitewashed office won’t change the world, but wasn’t that much more exciting to read than ‘while sharing our results’ period? *snore*) Once you finally get tenure, probably somewhere around your fifties, with almost translucent skin since you haven’t seen actual daylight for the past 15 years, and those odd tufts of grey hair sticking out at strange angles, you can do and say whatever the hell you want. But what are the odds? I mean, that we get tenure. The hair will probably take just another couple of months judging by my end-of-the-year…

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The long-anticipated (who am I kidding, no one knew we were preparing one) (SNA)P interview

(SNA)P THE UNCENSORED VERSION Being a conversation between dragonmaster Gabriel Bodard, and your beloved DataNinjas, about the SNAP:DRGN project and Social Network Analysis Cross-posted to SNAP:DRGN Gabriel Bodard: So, damsels, given my newbie SNA state, tell me: what is Social Network Analysis, and how is it useful for prosopography projects? Silke Vanbeselaere: Social Network Analysis (SNA) is basically the study of relationships between people through network theory. First used in sociology, it’s now become popular in many other disciplines, with a budding group of enthusiasts (*exuberant roar*) in (ancient) history. What it does, is focus on relations (of whatever kind) instead of on the actors individually. Through visualisation of the network graph and the network statistics, information can be obtained about the structure of the network and the roles of the individuals in it. The visualisation of these network graphs can be especially interesting for prosopography projects as it can help disambiguate people. Individuals are represented by nodes and their relationships are represented by ties or links between those nodes. Instead of dealing with one source at a time, the network allows you to see the whole of the relationships. GB: Can you perhaps illustrate that with an example and how it could help us? Yanne Broux: Off the top of my head: one of the things the extremely nifty disambiguation methods we developed could help you out with is the identification of high-ranked Roman officials across the different datasets. Consuls were often mentioned in dating formulas, and procurators, proconsuls,…

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Preparing your dataset for network analysis: a general introduction

Last week, your beloved Data Ninjas helped organize a workshop on how to get started with databases at the HNR2014 conference in Ghent. Due to popular demand, we’ll summarize the basic principles here. There’s nothing really SNA’y about building a database of course, but before you can go crazy with SNA, you have to have your data organized, so this is pretty important if you want to get something out of it easily. We’ve never really given this much thought actually: we’re pretty spoiled in this respect, because the database we work with, Trismegistos, was practically handed to us on a silver platter. Well, to Silke at least, two years ago. I actually helped build a large part of it for my PhD research, resulting in nightmares, insomnia and eventually a temporary ban on parsing names. Oh, those were the days… But we realize that others are not so fortunate and have to build theirs from scratch, which prompted our inner Mother Teresas to spread our miraculous database transubstantiation skillz among our peeps. For starters, we use Filemaker, cuz, well, that’s what Trismegistos rolls with. It’s really easy to work with: in fact, when you create a new database (File > New database; see: it’s that easy!), you automatically enter ‘layout mode’ and a ‘field picker’ pops up, in which you can start creating a list of new fields, which you can then drag to your new database (fig. 1 & 2).  Fig. 1: Filemaker ‘field picker’ Fig. 2: Filemaker…

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“I’m not into this detail stuff. I’m more concepty.”

When it comes to Digital Humanities, listen to your uncle Donald. Elijah Meeks saw the truth in this  and distilled four valuable lessons from Rummy’s unsurpassable sayings every Digital Humanities scholar should mount in a frame and hang next to that shabby, yellowed conference poster that makes the sad, whitewashed walls of your it’s-designed-for-two-but-let’s-cram-in-five-staff-members work space look even more pathetic than if you would get rid of it. 4 Lessons for Digital Humanities Scholars from Donald RumsfeldSubmitted by Elijah Meeks on Wed, 08/27/2014 – 12:50  As digital humanities scholarship matures, it behooves us to look to thinkers outside the field for help in crafting our research agenda and planning our projects. One of those thinkers is Donald Rumsfeld, the Socrates of Strategery, whose insightful rhetoric can guide us in our treatment of this young field. Some of you might be thinking, “Who’s Donald Rumsfeld?” If you don’t know who Donald Rumsfeld is, you can skip reading this, since you’re not firmly enough ensconced in the fear, uncertainty and doubt that comes from trying to understand the place of humanities scholarship in relation to new technologies, new media, and new modes of engagement.  For those who do know Donald Rumsfeld, you know that he had a way of expressing the complex, postmodern world in a way that was simultaneously accessible and fertile. Like a modern Laozi, his seemingly blaise descriptions of complex systems contain multilayered wisdom of the kind necessary for identifying the key features of such systems.  Lesson 1: Known Unknowns“There…

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Multiple edge types in Gephi

Ok, I know it’s summer, most of you are taking a well-deserved break, and there are a lot more fun things to do than dealing with networks. For those of you nodding fervently in agreement: shame on you! A plague on all your houses! Except Gryffindor, I’m in that one. And no, I didn’t just pick that one because Harry Potter‘s in it. I got sorted, the proper way. At Pottermore.com. You should really try it, it’s so much fun! Anywho, I recently got a cry for help concerning Gephi, and I thought: there may be more lost souls out there, struggling to get this right. So here’s the pickle: can you visualize different types of edges in Gephi? Not all your relationships are the same: you don’t hang with yo brudda of da same mudda in the same way as you do with your bros, and you don’t treat them the same as your hos. Like chicks before dicks, ya know? This was already true 100, 200, 500, even 1,000 years ago. People had family (through descent as well as marriage: sometimes it’s useful to distinguish between the two), friends, colleagues, superiors, inferiors, extraterrestrial acquaintances, … . Or you might want to look at different kinds of interactions between individuals: who writes/ lends money/ sells a slave/ … to whom, whatever, you name it! Although you’ll probably end up filtering your networks according to specific types of relations anyway, it’s not a bad idea to start out with the complete picture, to capture and…

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