“From texts to models, then; and models drawn from three disciplines with which literary studies have had little or no interaction: graphs from quantitative history, maps from geography, and trees from evolutionary theory.”
In his Graphs, Maps, Trees, Franco Moretti proposes three methods for literary studies. It is fascinating that he sees literary history as a sort of collective system, not merely the sum of individual cases, and then strives to find a pattern in navigating through a series of major canons and other minor texts. However, one might want raise the question of whether his notion of so-called ‘distant reading’ could mislead readers to neglect the importance of close reading for unique aesthetic quality or textuality of individual works.
Over the past year, while conducting my dissertation research, I explored/tested a couple of DH methods, hoping to discover a solution to the dilemma between the distant reading and close reading. Among various DH methods, SNA, which I learned from a sociology class taught by Peter Marsden, gave me the idea that the structural approach of SNA could be used for literary studies, not only for drawing overall patterns of literary history, but also for measuring relationships among authors, texts and all other possible factors affecting the production of texts.
In our ThatCampNE, I’d like to propose a session about SNA and its possible applications in the humanities. We might try answering questions such as the following:
- How do we define relationships among actors/agents in literary works to achieve a conceptual/qualitative level of outcomes?
- What kinds of SNA models could be used? Graphs, centrality, subgroups, etc.?
- What major limits will we have to keep in mind while using SNA for the humanities?
- What about programs? UCInet? Gephi? Or any others?
If people are interested, I also have a personal project for which I would love to get feedback. Frankly, I’m rather overwhelmed by all the mathematical discussions shared among SNAers due to my limited mathematical/statistical training. I hope to be able to share my questions and difficulties with other ThatCampers….