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Digital Humanities and the Network Turn

We are pleased to announce the third Digital Humanities discussion event on Wednesday 8 February 2023, focusing on Social Network Analysis.

Please note, this event is open only to University of Reading researchers and certain invited guests. If you are interested in any of the presentations, please contact Mara Oliva (m.oliva@reading.ac.uk).

The event will be taking place on campus, but there is a hybrid option in order to ensure ongoing accessibility for those especially vulnerable to Covid-19 as well as colleagues with caring responsibilities. If you would like to attend virtually, please get in touch to request the link for access.

If you are not already a member, you are welcome to join the Digital Humanities Community of Practice via our MS Teams channel. (This link will take you to the Teams channel. If you are not already a member, you will be presented with a dialogue box that says ‘Join’. Click this to send a request, which will be approved if you are a member of the University of Reading. If you are already a member of the Team, this link just takes you directly to the ‘General’ channel.)

Within the COP, you will be able to introduce yourself, share your research, and access information about funding opportunities, support, and events. Read more here.

Our events are open to all researchers, staff, and PGRs from any subject – we welcome interdisciplinary collaboration!

To attend the event (in person or via Teams), or if you have any other questions, please contact the DH Academic Champion, Mara Oliva (m.oliva@reading.ac.uk).


14.00 Welcome and Intro – Roberta Gilchrist and Mara Oliva

14.10 Keynote address: Professor Ruth Ahnert (QMUL and Turing Institute) – ‘The Network Turn: Changing Perspectives in the Humanities’

14.50 Break

15.00 Roundtable:

  • Dr Amy Richardson (University of Reading) – Social Network Analysis and the archaeology of Iraq: networks of materials and practice in pre- and proto-history
  • Dr Fiona Coward (Bournemouth University) – The Connected Past
  • Dr Valentina Vavassori (National Archives) – tbc

15.30 Q&A

15.55 What’s next (DH CoP and Hub – future events) & close


Abstract: Keynote Address – Professor Ruth Ahnert

The Network Turn: Changing Perspectives in the Humanities

We live in a networked world. Online social networking platforms and the World Wide Web have changed how society thinks about connectivity. Because of the technological nature of such networks, their study has predominantly taken place within the domains of computer science and related scientific fields. But arts and humanities scholars are increasingly using the same kinds of visual and quantitative analysis to shed light on aspects of culture and society hitherto concealed. This paper will argue that networks are a category of study that cuts across traditional academic barriers, uniting diverse disciplines through a shared understanding of complexity in our world. Moreover, we are at a moment in time when it is crucial that arts and humanities scholars join the critique of how large-scale network data and advanced network analysis are being harnessed for the purposes of power, surveillance, and commercial gain. To illustrate the potential of the frameworks and methods of network analysis, this paper will draw from the findings of two recent projects that I led, Tudor Networks of Power, and Networking Archives.


Speaker information

Professor Ruth Ahnert is Professor of Literary History and Digital Humanities at Queen Mary University of London. Her research background is in early modern history, with a particular interest in book history and epistolary culture. More recently she has explored the application of quantitative network analysis to the study of early modern letters, and is currently Principal Investigator on the large interdisciplinary project Living with Machines based at the British Library and Alan Turing Institute.

Dr Amy Richardson is a Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Reading. Her research focuses on the analysis of new and archival archaeological datasets to examine networks of people and materials in the Middle East, applying materials and network analysis to assemblages of clay and stone artefacts. She is also a University of Reading Open Research Champion.

Dr Fiona Coward is Associate Professor in Archaeological Sciences at Bournemouth University. Her work focuses on the evolution of human social life and cognition throughout the Palaeolithic but also throughout the shift from mobile foraging to more settled and agricultural lifeways in the early Holocene. She employs a multidisciplinary approach, emphasising the interrelations between humanity’s physical and social environments, as well as a variety of techniques including network analysis, GIS and agent-based modelling.

Dr Valentina Vavassori is a Digital Scholarship Researcher at the National Archives. She is interested in the development of User Interfaces for Linked Open Data, ontologies and data modelling. She completed her PhD, on ‘Digital Narratives in Physical Museums. Narrative Construction with Contextual Technologies’, at King’s College London, where she also worked on the project ‘Reframing Art: Opening up Art Dealers’ Archives to Multi-Disciplinary Research’ in collaboration with the National Gallery.


8 February
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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Digital Humanities Hub


Edith Morley Building, G25
University of Reading, Shinfield Rd
Reading, RG6 6EL United Kingdom
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