2013 Lunchtime Seminars

Network visualization of correspondents in Early Modern Letters Online by Scott Weingart.

Negotiating Networks: Six Case Studies

Conference Room, Oxford e-Research Centre, Thursdays, 1pm

Thursday 31 October 2013

Dr Huib Zuidervaart is a Senior Researcher in the History of Science and Scholarship department at Huygens ING.

Audio & Slides

The ePistolarium: A New Digital Tool for Studying the Republic of Letters

Last June, the ePistolarium was launched. This open access digital tool, created by Circulation of Knowledge and Learned Practices in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic at Huygens ING, offers users an entrance to the combined content of learned correspondences of various seventeenth-century Dutch scholars; around 20,000 letters in total. After each search, the tool automatically suggests other keywords related to the query, while topic modelling allows it to suggest letters with related material. It also features dynamically generated visualizations; for every search the network of correspondents can be displayed, and the places of despatch and receipt represented on a map. In my presentation, I will provide an outline of the development of the ePistolarium, including some highlights and pitfalls. I will conclude by focusing on a feature of the ePistolarium made possible by named entity recognition, namely the opportunity to dynamically visualize networks of influence and co-citation within selected sets of letters. I will use this feature to explore the well-known case of Christiaan Huygens’ observations on the planet Saturn, comparing the results generated by the ePistolarium with the existing state of knowledge derived from current literature.

Thursday 7 November 2013


Christoph Kudella is a Graduate Student in the department of    Renaissance Studies at University College Cork.

Audio & Slides

Erasmus and the Sixteenth-Century Respublica Litteraria: Of Letters, Data, and Networks

The famous humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam presided over one of the best-known networks of correspondence during the Renaissance, encompassing over 700 correspondents and about 3,200 individual letters. Using the example of his epistolary network, this presentation will introduce the audience to an ongoing PhD project that explores the application of the tools and methods of Digital Humanities within the research context of the sixteenth-century Republic of Letters. Following general remarks on data modeling and metadata standards, covered topics comprise multi-facetted attribute and relational data, network visualizations, and historical GIS.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Jens Weber and Andreas Wolter are the founders of mediaarchitecture.de, a Weimer-based studio operating at the intersection of art, design, and technology.

Links & Videos

Cultural Interventions in Social Networks: Some Modern Strategies of Information Visualization in the ImpulsBauhaus Project

The ImpulsBauhaus Project investigates the social network of the Bauhaus art movement and its global influence. Extensive biographical information on participants in the movement is continually collected and stored on its research platform. With the aid of computer-generated information visualizations and an interactive table installation, the initial results of the project were presented for the first time in 2009 at the ImpulsBauhaus: Exhibition N°1 in Weimar. Since 2013, the ImpulsBauhaus Project continues under the title Bewegte Netze. Bauhausangehörige und ihre Beziehungsnetzwerke in den dreißiger und vierziger Jahren (Moving Networks: Members of the Bauhaus and their Social Networks in the 1930s and 40s) and financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG)Professor Magdalena Droste (Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus) and Professor Patrick Rössler (University of Erfurt) are revising and expanding the historical data while Jens Weber and Andreas Wolter are focussing on the development of new kinds of network visualization. Their work for the project will be described in the talk.

Thursday 21 November 2013


Dr Ruth Ahnert is a Lecturer in Early Modern Studies in the School of English and Drama at QMUL, where she also co-directs the Centre for Early Modern Mapping, News and Networks.


Dr Sebastian Ahnert is a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge.

Audio & Slides


Tudor Letter Networks: The Case for Quantitative Network Analysis

In Franco Moretti’s Distant Reading and Matt Jockers’ Macroanlaysis, published this year, there are short chapters exploring the application of network analysis to the study of literature. These coincide with the emergence of a host of projects that seek to map networks of communication, influence, and even metaphors. These studies, however, only begin to scratch the surface of the kind of analysis that is possible with the computational and mathematical tools developed by network scientists; most get little beyond visualization. In this paper we will discuss our work on the applications of quantitative network analysis (QNA) to Tudor letter collections. In a forthcoming publication we have reconstructed and analyzed the social and textual organization of the underground community of Protestants living in England during the reign of Mary I from a body of surviving letters now held in the British Library and Emmanuel College Library, Cambridge. QNA offers several ways of measuring how ‘well-connected’ an individual is. Unsurprisingly, martyrs are well connected by virtue of their social status and significant correspondence; the analysis, however, also reveals that other individuals are well connected, not as a result of a large number of connections, but because of who they are connected to. The latter category describes letter couriers, and financial sustainers. These kinds of figures have special network properties; by measuring and comparing these properties we are able to predict other figures who might have served similar roles. In this paper we will discuss the ways that we can apply the methods and measures we have developed working on this relatively small dataset to our new research, which is based on the vast amount of correspondence collected in the State Papers dating from the accession of Henry VIII to the death of his daughter Elizabeth.

Thursday 28 November 2013


Dr Vera Hildenbrandt is a Lecturer in the Department of German Studies at the University of Trier.


Dr Jörg Ritter is a member of the Institute for Computer Science at the University of Halle-Wittenburg.

Slides & Links


Epistolary Networks of Exiles: The Vernetzte Korrespondenzen Project

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, about half a million people escaped from German-speaking countries, amongst them many writers, artists, and publishers. Retrospectively, the dramatist and writer Hermann Kesten summed up this exodus in the words; in exile, ‘one loses people but gains widely scattered friends’. In this situation of dispersion and liquidation, corrosive of established social, cultural, and artistic networks, letters became (in a special way) a central medium of information and exchange, a medium of transfer between countries and cultures, and a medium of establishing new and maintaining old contacts. Thus, in the politically difficult period after 1933, epistolary networking gains a particular importance for existence in a foreign land, demonstrated by the immense number of letters written in exile. This talk will introduce the project Vernetzte Korrespondenzen – a major new interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of Trier, the German Literature Archive in Marbach, and the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg – which intends to build an interactive, web-based application for the exploration and visualization of the social, spatial, temporal, and thematic networks in these corpora.

Thursday 5 December 2013


Dr Christopher Warren is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Carnegie Mellon University.


Bacon and Edges: Reassembling the Early Modern Social Network

Scholars in the humanities have long been engaged with reconstructing and representing social networks of various kinds. Coteries, conventicles, ‘tribes’, and trade associations – each has been the subject of intense research and publication. As historian Anthony Grafton notes, ‘the interpretation of texts now goes hand in hand with the reconstruction of intellectual and publishing communities’. Yet this talk will argue that the traditional medium of scholarly exchange, prose, is a limited tool for the purpose of representing complex networks of association. Although we already have vast knowledge of networks, that knowledge is not encoded, visible, or available in the most useful way. The presentation will introduce a collaborative project called Six Degrees of Francis Bacon that learns from centuries of ‘inky’ data and metadata, remediating text to make the early modern social network more accessible, extensible, collaborative, and interoperable.

Further Information

Seminars, which are open to all, will take place in the conference room of the Oxford e-Research Centre in the city centre (except the session on Thursday 21 November, which will take place at St Anne’s College). They are fully catered; sandwiches and other refreshments, provided free of charge but on a first come first served basis, will be available outside our meeting room from around 12.45pm. If you have any queries about the sessions not covered on this page drop us a line at cofk@humanities.ox.ac.uk. Looking forward to seeing you there!


Catering by artisan homemade creators, the Organic Deli Cafe, Oxford.