Network Theory

“The idea behind this study, clearly stated in its opening page, was, very simply, that network theory could offer a way to quantify plot, thus providing an essential piece that was still missing from computational analyses of literature. Once I started working in earnest, though, I soon realized that the machine-gathering of the data, essential to large-scale quantification, was not yet a realistic possibility. (Others, elsewhere, were already at work on this problem; but I wasn’t aware of it). So, from its very first section, the essay drifted from quantification to the qualitative analysis of plot: the advantage of thinking in terms of space rather than time; its segmentation into regions, instead of episodes; the new, nonanthropomorphic idea of the protagonist; or, even, the “undoing” of narrative structures occasioned by the removal of specific vertices in the network.”

-Franco Moretti,  “Network Theory, Plot Analysis”

Overall, I find this quote to demonstrate our transition from digital to humanities. The spatial analysis of literature is different as it focuses on “the qualitative analysis of the plot”, or the look at the connections between all elements in the work to discover how it exists. We have been investigating more technical elements of how a work is conveyed and created but this instead looks into the work’s characters, narrative, and common uses. Therefore, this is a more artistic side of the digital humanities.



5 thoughts on “Network Theory

  1. From the quote you mentioned, I do think it demonstrates a difference between digital and humanities. However, I don’t think that is the point of the article. Network Theory is the study of connections and networks and how they interact, but it is also brings out several different perspectives from the same text. Just like the definition for “digital” can mean different things. For example, recently we looked at how the digital medium can affect the reader or the text itself, but if we look at how many different ways to read something, how many connections there are, how many sub-plots there could be etc. there is a lot that can be missed. I don’t think of this as a transition from digital to humanities but rather another way to define “digital” in a context of literacy by using a mathematical perspective of Network Theory.

  2. Both of you provide a good perspective on Network Theory and its use in the article. As a way to connect what you both say, the character connection graphs quantify character relations. While they may establish these character relations, they do provide any qualitative analysis on them. They may show that Horatio, Hamlet, and Claudio are important characters who have a multitude of connections, but they don’t explain why. (Figure 19) These qualitative questions must be answered using humanities. Network Theory gives leads that we use humanities to solve.

  3. Collectively, I think you all have created a nice definition for spatial analysis. It could possibly be defined as a method to solve complex issues where specific issues are not really solved nor completely defined. Also worth mention is the Network Theory in general. Network Theory is essentially the temporal type of work that we have been doing (Voyeur Tools and Timelines) but with an extra, more complex piece, like spatial analysis.

  4. All that has been said so far has provided a great perspective on how characters have a network of connections between other characters. These network graphs between characters are a great representation of the quantitative data for how many connections a single character might have or several other different quantitative data. This is a great joining of digital and humanities. One important thing to keep in mind is that just the network graphs by themselves are not specifically on one side. The data they contain needs to be explained for it to have an effect in digital humanities. In other words quantitative data by itself needs to be explained for it to become qualitative data. The network theory and the graphs it provides are a give a fantastic tool for the digital humanities to have in its tool belt.

  5. All of you bring something of real value to the fundamental usage and knowledge on Network Theory. To reiterate some of the main bullets, network theory could offer a way to quantify plot – studying connections and networks and they interact. Contextualizing vs. content is another massively important topic of focus. How are they thinking? Thinking in space is much different than thinking in time and you get a misconception of the interpretation of the author’s point of view if you’re not certain. Instead of seeing this as a problem the Network Theory gives us a trail of clues. Using these clues we must interpret them as a puzzle to solve the phraseology of the expression, once we know the diction of the language analyzing and clarification will be more effortless.

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