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קול קורא // לכנס: כנס המחקר של הרשת ההיסטורית. בנושא: ויזואליזציה [לוזאן 07/24] דדליין=31.1.24

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The Historical Network Research Conference

The phenomena studied by the historical sciences are, by their very nature, complex situations: they involve, for example, interwoven personal relationships, collective dynamics that structure social and cultural space, or political and economic systems that operate at local and global levels. The network metaphor is frequently used to describe this entanglement. In recent decades, however, historians have begun to think about ways of formalizing this approach, appropriating the concepts and tools of graph theory to provide a new perspective on archives. The application of formal network analysis to history is now a highly fertile field of experimentation and research. It can be used to analyze the geographical logics of major circulation networks, to highlight brokers in affiliation networks, to compile family trees to reveal their points of contact, to study the occurrences and co-occurrences of concepts in serial texts, to show the evolution of personal social networks, etc. And through a great deal of empirical work, the specific features that historical disciplines bring to network science become apparent: particular attention to the modeling of data that is often incomplete and uncertain, the need to take account of temporality in all its finesse, the necessity to find a language that allows mathematical results to be interpreted in a qualitative narrative.

In 2009, following a workshop dedicated to the application of social network analysis to history, a small community of practice, the Historical Network Research community, was created. It evolved into a series of workshops and then an international conference, of which the present edition is the 9th to date, after conferences in Hamburg, Ghent, Lisbon, Turku, Brno, Luxembourg and Mainz. 2013 saw the creation of the HNR Collective Bibliography, a central tool for sharing the community’s scientific output. In 2017, the first issue of JHNR, the Journal of Historical Network Research, was published, allowing everyone to share their research in Open Access. Other resources include a YouTube channel with recorded lectures and a newsletter.

Conference focus: Visualization

Network visualization is often the first thing to be seen, whether it’s an illegible but colorful node-link diagram, an elaborate sociogram, an austere matrix or a fancy flow map. Because of our discomfort with basing our interpretation on an object apparently built on somewhat subjective foundations, because they are very likely to be influenced by a graphic bias, we often relegate visualizations to a minor role in our exploratory approaches, preferring the cold (apparent) scientificity of graph metrics. But just because we see naive uses of network visualization doesn’t mean it can’t be a highly effective tool for understanding, exploring and communicating our research data. One of the ambitions of the conference is therefore to question our use of network visualization in history, a concern that will be reflected in particular in the workshops and keynotes.

Note that the HNR conference is open to all subjects involving network analysis in historical disciplines, so the thematic emphasis of this 2024 edition has no impact on the selection of contributions. The only effect will be that an image will be requested for each paper (after the review phase, if not included in the submitted abstract) to create a gallery that will be displayed during the conference to spark discussion about our network visualization practices.


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University of Lausanne, לוזאן, שווייץ
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