#HNR2024 Historical Network Research Conference 2024

The #HNR2024 Historical Network Research Conference 2024 brings together researchers applying network analysis in the historical sciences. 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. 

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.

The conference will take place at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland), from Monday 8 July until Wednesday 10 July, 2024. For more information see: https://historicalnetworkresearch.github.io/lausanne/.  The first of the conference includes a number of workshops: https://historicalnetworkresearch.github.io/lausanne/workshops/.