THE CONNECTED PAST: NETWORK ANALYSIS FOR ARCHAEOLOGISTS AND HISTORIANS
Networks offer one of the newest and most exciting approaches to archaeological and historical data analysis, and over the last two years, the The Connected Past team has brought together scholars from across the globe to discuss their research, with a session at Birmingham TAG 2011, the Southampton conference in March 2012, a session at the SAAs in Hawaii in April this year, and a collaboration with HESTIA in July 2013.
But we’re also aware that starting to do network analysis isn’t always easy. It can be difficult to know which software to use, how to present data, what questions to ask, and what results really show. Because it’s hard for researchers at all levels who are starting to think about network analysis, we are delighted to announce that we have put together a programme for a two-day practical workshop at the University of Southampton on 17-18 September 2013.
• Alex Bentley (Bristol)
• Andy Bevan (UCL)
• Tom Brughmans (Southampton)
• Anna Collar (McDonald Institute, Cambridge)
• Fiona Coward (Bournemouth)
• Marten Düring (Nijmegen)
• Claire Lemercier (Sciences-Po, Paris)
• Angus Mol (Leiden)
In addition, for those who want to overdose on networks, Southampton will also be hosting the 12th Mathematics of Networks meeting on 16th September. It’s very multi-disciplinary, with a focus on social science applications and the technical side of things.
Tuesday 17th September
Morning (start 10am)
Introduction to networks in archaeology and history (Tom Brughmans and Fiona Coward)
This presentation-based workshop will introduce the basic principles of network science as well as some of the most commonly used analytical techniques and visualization methods. It will draw on archaeological examples throughout to illustrate these topics. It will include a discussion of some of the most crucial benefits and issues with network science in archaeology.
Preparing data for network analysis, network creation and visualisation (Tom Brughmans)
This practical workshop will guide you through completing a network visualization and analysis of an archaeological and geographical dataset using the user-friendly network analysis software platform Cytoscape. It will be followed by a brief discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of other free-to-use network analysis software.
Lunch (1 – 1:45pm)
Archaeological and historical case studies and personal experiences
Marten Düring: covert support networks
In my work I have coded, visualised and interpreted data on covert support networks based on six case studies in Berlin. Earlier works on support for persecuted Jews focus either on historical reconstructions of individual activities or the personalities of helpers in general.
Dwelling from the existing body of research I aimed to shift this rather actor-focused approach towards the analysis of internal structures and collective activities of illegal support networks. Building a database to store a large number of relations among actors and visualising them was an important methodological step that helped me achieve this. Due to highly distorted and fragmented sources I was forced to pay special attention to the risks in working with a database and visualisations.
Most of the multiplex relational data that I collected is based on autobiographical testimonies, post 1945 applications for remuneration or interviews, some of which took place more than 60 years after the events they depict. As a result, these personal testimonies have been transformed into more or less fixated, often anecdotal narratives. These narratives are rather reflections of their author’s self-conception than accurate depictions of past events. Another problem is the clandestine nature of illegal support activities: names of actors and sources of support were kept secret whenever possible, contemporary written accounts are valuable exceptions. Other sources were Gestapo interrogation reports which contain information that was not given voluntarily and likely contains false and misleading information.
All these sources have strong biases which make them difficult to use for formal analysis and lead to highly fragmented sets of actors and relations. Even though many of these gaps cannot be fully closed, a large number of relations can still be deducted from third party accounts, existing historical research and historical contextualization. This works better for some actors than for others.
Angus Mol: network set in stone
This talk will discuss the archaeological network questions, data, abstractions, analysis and interpretation of a case-study on lithic exchange from the pre-colonial Caribbean. The case-study will examine the production and distribution patterns of a number of endogenous raw material sources, workshops and consumer sites in the period from 800 BC- AD 400. Based on these it is possible to contrast previous ideas on culturally bounded migrants with an explanation of the same developments that focuses on connectivity in the wider region. This provides a new perspective on a crucial time-frame in the societal and cultural history of the Caribbean: the “Archaic-Ceramic” interface, a process and period comparable to “Neolithisation” in other parts of the world. Aside from discussing the lines of evidence, software and measures used to create this case-study, the talk will go into some of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of using such regional and broad temporal network approaches in archaeology.
Round table discussion
What do you think? What are the strengths and weaknesses of formal network methods? How could you apply this to your own research questions? What does a networks perspective add to our disciplines? What can we learn from complexity scientists? The benefits of multi-disciplinary collaboration?
Wine reception sponsored by the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation (6pm)
Dinner in the Crown pub (7pm)
Wednesday 18th September
Morning (start 9am)
Network analysis software
A short overview of some of the software available for analysing and visualising networks, with a brief discussion of personal experiences and preferences.
Analysing network structure (Claire Lemercier)
Although graphs are everywhere in network analysis, calculations and the interpretation of their results are generally key to the production of historical/archaeological interpretation. This workshop will give a hands-on introduction to the most important metrics of network analysis: the numbers that allow one to compare networks, to compare individual positions inside a network, and to discuss relationships between these positions and other attributes. Participants will be encouraged to work on their own datasets, but a sample historical dataset on a migration network will also be provided and used to examplify some procedures.
No prior knowledge of network software or vocabulary is required, but participants should install Ucinet, the software platform that will be used during the workshop.
Lunch (1 – 1:45pm)
Geographical network techniques (Andy Bevan)
Network analysis has become increasingly popular across many different disciplines over the last decade or so. For archaeologists, networks have provided a useful, if rather loose, metaphor for thinking about human interaction in the past as well as, for some, an opportunity to try out more formal graph theoretic models. The simplifying assumptions that network structure typically imposes also bring an elegance to our analysis of social and natural phenomena that is very attractive. However, if abstract networks are often good to think with, where does that leave our modelling of those more complex networks that are physically grounded in the actual landscape? Past and present transport systems, for example, potentially involve a bewildering array of directed, weighted, time-sensitive and/or multi-modal links that support an equally bewildering array of routine, officially regulated and/or effectively random interaction events by the humans and animals that use them. Archaeologists must face a further challenge of understanding the long-term evolution of geographically-grounded networks of human interaction via very partial and time-averaged evidence. This talk explores the range of archaeological research goals, modelling trade-offs and technical methods that are available in those moments where geographical networks get real.
What method to use? (Alex Bentley and Fiona Coward)
An overview of Alex and Fiona’s personal experiences with using formal network techniques over the years. A brief discussion of the diversity of existing formal network methods and a researcher’s quest to find the right method for her research questions. When are network methods the right answer to our methodological questions and when should we prefer alternative approaches?
Discussion: issues in archaeological and historical network analysis