JAMES LEE, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, GRINNELL COLLEGE

A Network Analysis of Shakespeare’s Plays

What if Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy looked like this:

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Rather than like this?

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For the past two years, I have been working on ways to do precisely this, by using social network analysis and theory as a way to study literary texts. I’ve examined Shakespeare’s plays to demonstrate how network visualization is a digital humanities method that can “explore” and “negotiate” the space between text and performance in the study of drama, to borrow terms from the Shakespeare critic Robert Weimann. In this approach, digital techniques serve as a way to link traditionally different modes of reading and literary criticism, such as, in the case of Shakespeare, the literary text and theatrical performance. The networks developed in this project use the language of Shakespearean plays to trace the relationships between characters in space, in effect, translating the literary text into a web of spatial relations, which are difficult to perceive solely in the act of reading. The network visualizations map out the connections between every character in all of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays at different scales – from the entire play to the individual scene to the line – by counting how much a character speaks (the size of the node), whom they speak to (the edges between the nodes), and how frequently characters interact (the distance between the nodes).

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Understanding Basic Network Analysis Concepts

Everyone talks about networking.  Social networks are increasingly important—from using Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, to using professional contacts to find jobs.

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Network of Actors and Actresses

Social network analysis is the study of the relationships between all the individual actors contained in one group.  With social network analysis, we can examine the workings of a group of interconnected people.  This is great for the social sciences because it allows the investigation of relationships at a small-world level.  Social network analysis shows the patterns and flow of the relationship dynamics within the group.

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Ad Buys: FCC Data and (Partial) Transparency

Data about political advertising historically have been difficult to access, though recently the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) began implementing new disclosure requirements for TV stations.

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FCC data allow for the examination of campaign spending in the Iowa Senate race. More about these graphs below.

Who advertises and how much they spend intrigues political observers, not to mention campaign competitors.  Intrigue aside, this information is important for a democratic system aspiring to offer candidates equal access to paid broadcast media – and to put some stops on the ability of the broadcasters to pad their own pockets.

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