Subject, Object, Centrality: Network Analysis in History Research and Teaching

Though it might seem odd to compare history and network analysis, novice practitioners of the two share an assumption: that history and networks are both made up of objective “facts, unassailable “data” that contribute to a single narrative. This talk starts with Johanna Drucker’s capta concept–the idea that all data gets interpretive treatment in the cleaning process–and combines network analysis and history to contribute meaningfully to the theoretical underpinnings of both disciplines. We’ll start with semantic networks of medieval Latin, modern English and modern Spanish that track ideas of conflict and colonialism over time. Then, we’ll look at how these research projects shaped an interdisciplinary history-education effort to develop software and activities that help students apply the capta process to historical sources, create and visualize networks and, through the combination of the two disciplines, improve their history reading comprehension and argumentation skills.