• Visualizing the Evolution of Historical Networks Using Graphs and Matrices

    Melanie Conroy (see profile) , Kimmo Elo, Malte Rehbein, Linda von Keyserlingk
    Digital humanities research and methodology, Network analysis, German history, Data visualization
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    network approaches, opposition movements, historical time, dissident groups
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    History and methodologically similar disciplines present interesting conceptual problems for network visualization. The evolution of a network over time is a dif-ficult process to visualize because the complex notions of time used in historical disciplines are not reducible to chronological time, a concept often implicit in scientific models of dynamic networks. Further, historical and humanistic datasets do not always contain time stamps that are as accurate or as detailed as those in most contemporary datasets; thus, a sequential model of time with variable tem-poral units is more generally appropriate than a set chronometric one. Finally, more than one agent’s perspective on the evolution of a network is often con-tained in one historical account of an event or series of events. In this article, we present a theory and a method for visualizing historical networks. We propose an agent-perspective-time matrix that allows researchers to compare the state of the network at various times and from various perspectives. In our method for creat-ing network diagrams, we use graphs and graphs-within-matrices to represent time-varying dynamic networks, with or without time-stamped data and with or without multiple perspectives. We present a method for coloring nodes and edges automatically according to whether they persist, disappear, or emerge between two points in time. We discuss how these network diagrams can be placed in ma-trices to compare the network at several points in time. Finally, we show how different perspectives on the evolution of the network can be visualized by placing network diagrams within a multi-perspectival 3D matrix online or on paper. Using examples from German history, we supply visualizations for each case study and commentaries on how these visualizations can be used.
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    2 months ago
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