During the winter semester 2014-2015, Dr. Anne Baillot offered a course on historical networks in theory and digital practice at the Stuttgart Research Centre for Text Studies. She kindly invited Carolin Hahn and myself to give a workshop on various tools of data analysis and geovisualization. This post and the attached slides aim at sharing my experience of software Nodegoat and Palladio, the two online-platforms I used as I attempted to organize my PhD’s sources.
These tools are already depicted in detail on their respective webpages. Palladio (Research+Humanities Lab at Stanford University), constitutes the easiest – and probably fastest – way to draw your own network in no time. Nodegoat (developed by LAB1100‘s Pim van Bree and Geert Kessels), requires a little bit more attention at first, as the user needs to create its own framework from scratch before being able to visualize its date. Past the initial approach, it facilitates the work as it makes the frame entirely adapted to one’s own research needs.
The slides I used to present these tools are available here.
As this blog also seeks to raise methodological questions, I take the opportunity here to share my thoughts on a recurring question I hear, both as participant and organizer of workshops on networks analysis: “I have my data, but I’m no IT specialist, how can I quickly visualize my networks?”
I observed many times that humanists willing to use digital tools remain reluctant to learn about their proper use first. They want a result, and a quick one. But the sole visualization of a corpus in space is meaningless if one doesn’t explain its meaning and its value by aiming at answering questions set up well before the drawing of a network. While network visualization allows to emphasize one or the other aspect of one’s research and strongly supports the analytical process, it can’t constitute the core of it, as it merely illustrates a postulate that had to be thought of earlier on in the research process. Visualizing networks is a mean, not an end. The difficulties to properly use a network in humanities were well explained by Gabriel Garrote on the blog Réseaux et Histoire in “Réseaux: de la notion à l’analyse. Heurs et malheurs d’un outil“.