Some Key Locational Terms and Concepts in Network Analysis

Here is my own working list of key terms and definitions in network analysis. Several of these are also discussed in the wonderfully fun Six Degrees of Spaghetti Monsters blog site, with examples from the social network of Harry Potter. This list accompanies my tutorial on Network Analysis and Cytoscape for XML Coders and my Thalaba project post, “Spectacular Intersections of Place.”

Walk—A sequence of nodes and lines—with a beginning and end point node, Can double back on itself—may not be straight.  A walk (as well as a trail and a path) has a length, number of lines.

Trail—A walk with distinct lines—no connection (or communication or link) is used more than once, but a node can come up more than once (doubling back).

Path—All nodes and all lines are distinct—No node is connected more than once along a path. This is a direct route.

Closed Walk—begins and ends at same node (loop).
Cycle—closed walk of 3+ nodes—all lines distinct—all nodes in between the start and finish are distinct (and the start node = finish node).

Tour—closed walk using each line in the whole graph.

Connected vs. Disconnected: Is there a path between all nodes in the graph? If disconnected, we can refer to components of the graph (connected units of it).

Geodesic: shortest path between two nodes. Geodesic distance: length of the shortest path. If there’s no path between nodes, the geodesic distance is either considered infinite or undefined, since they can’t be reached.

Eccentricity (or association number): largest geodesic distance between a node and any other node

 Diameter of a graph: defined by the largest geodesic distance between two nodes.

Connectivity: Does a graph remain connected without particular nodes or lines?

Vulnerability: if a graph is easily broken at a few nodes or edges

Cutpoint and Cutset—Cutpoint= node that if removed makes multiple components (splits a unified graph) Cutset = set of nodes that maintains connectedness.

Bridge: Line (edge) critical to connectedness

Centralities of Various Kinds: A Useful Site for Telling Them Apart

Degree Centrality – The most central node has the highest number of ties to other nodes

Ego Density—a node’s ties / max number of possible ties

Closeness and Closeness Centrality: How quickly can a node interact with all the other nodes? Does the node need to rely on lots of other nodes to connect across the graph, or can it get to all these nodes relatively quickly?

Betweenness and Betweenness Centrality: Which nodes are in-between other nodes—which are necessary to control or mediate interactions?

Eigenvector Centrality: measures the influence of a node on the other nodes around it–a way of studying the relative importance of nodes to making other nodes more central

Random Walk Centrality: involves starting from any node and randomly moving about—how long it takes to traverse the network—sort of like pouring turning on a tap at one node and watching to see where the water runs.

Information and Information Centrality: Information of a path = inverse of its length. “In brief, the length of any path is directly related to the variance of transmitting a signal from one node to another; thus the information contained in this path is the reciprocal of this variance. Thus any path (and hence, each and every combined path) has an ‘information content.’” (Wasserman and Faust 194)

Clique: 3+ nodes adjacent to each other—a subset of nodes, in which no others are also adjacent to ALL the members. (Thalaba is full of cliques)

Small World: Most nodes aren’t connected to each other, but can be reached in one or two steps (strangers linked by mutual acquaintance)


Borgatti, Stephen P. “Centrality and Network Flow.” Social Networks 27 (2005) 55–71.

Newman, M. E. J. “A measure of betweenness centrality based on random walks. arXiv:cond-mat/0309045v1 [cond-mat.stat-mech]  (Submitted on 1 Sep 2003).
Wasserman, Stanley and Katherine Faust. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications (Cambridge UP, 1994).

Digital Mitford Annual June Workshop Set: June 2, 3, and 4.

Mitford Puzzle
Mary Russell Mitford in Pieces!

Calling all our Digital Mitford editors, and inviting new people to join us! We’re hosting our second annual Digital Mitford Projects Workshops at the beautiful Pitt-Greensburg campus again, in the first week of June. (Arrive Sunday June 1, depart Thurs. June 5). Details to come. We’re likely to have the cost of the residence on campus covered, but probably can’t cover travel funds on our own (waiting to hear from a grant application…) For now, we ask our editors and new editors to look about for local funding sources…and we’ll keep you posted! (Editors, look for a more detailed e-mail to follow soon.)

Project Update: Headnotes for the Digital Mitford

We’re hard at work on the Digital Mitford…an update:

Digital Mitford

We’ve not had a blog update from the Digital Mitford in a while, but our project team has been busy! We’ve been working on grant writing and conference talks, not to mention semester and job activities, our energies diverted in many directions. We need a Coding Refresher Hangout, so project-team members, please check your e-mail and write back to let me know what upcoming Saturdays might work for this.

I’m taking a moment now to think aloud about Headnotes for the literary editions we aim to prepare this year for the Digital Mitford. We’re working on coding a test-bed of files, a cross-section of Mitford’s letters, prose fiction, and drama composed in the early 1820s. This moment is especially significant for us in representing Mitford and, effectively, for gluing together the fragments of her reputation. (Victorianists know her for her prose fiction, Our Village, while Romanticists–if they’re aware of…

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Confessing an Excess of Code. . .

Shall I confess it? I have too many projects to code! One project prompts another, and gets me involved in two more–and then I have a class to plan that involves teaching students to code–eek! Time moves too quickly and I’m engrossed in systems, sometimes most fretfully.

But the reward is a sudden glimpse of something I couldn’t see so clearly before–and the adventure of an experiment. Changing research methods is a giddy thing when you’re a researcher! For my next conference presentations I am working intently on coding places and cultures in Robert Southey’s ornate long poem Thalaba the Destroyer (1801), to demonstrate the complex interweaving of cultures here in a more quantitative way than I could before.

But I can’t seem to focus on Southey without being distracted by the Digital Mitford project–and happily so, as we’re fleshing out our Coding Guidelines, and as we’ve been compiling a working bibliography of Mitford’s published writings. Behind the scenes is Much Coding Work and much more to come: I’m writing some XSLT to extract and reshuffle our XML code, and I’m thinking more and more about Prosopography–our methods for compiling and collecting information on persons, places, events, and texts referenced in Mitford’s writings. Most interesting is how we’ll be indicating relationships between people and people, people and books, people and events, even people and fictional characters, or fictional characters to other fictional characters! The combinations are interesting to contemplate–and we could potentially generate many different networks to visualize!

The usual advice is to anticipate as much as possible in the early planning phases of a big coding project–but we simply cannot predict every kind of  relationship we’re going to find, and we need for a while to discover what these are going to be. Some are predictable: parent-child, marriage, friendship, but what about other kinds of relationships–when a character is modelled on an historic figure? We can identify who’s active and who’s passive, and when a relationship is mutual–not a problem here. It’s the characterization of relationships that I’m hoping will generate some interesting diversity as we code–and I don’t want to constrain that just yet.

Ideally I’d be able to write a simple RelaxNG schema to control all the coding of each *kind* of text we’re editing for the Mitford project, but we really can’t do that without running into problems very quickly: A schema needs to be something we can make distinct to the specific conditions of a particular text, and I’m thinking I’d like to make a general schema for a play (for example), and then show my editors how to fine-tune it for their purposes. For now we’re running with the general TEI P5 ALL schema built into <oXygen/>, and a set of coding rules. There is much fine-tuning to do, and much of this, I think, we really do have to figure out AS we code.

Speaking of which, it’s past time for me to be working on Thalaba! I’m not ready to post a visualization of this coding just yet–but watch this space. Thalaba is glorious to view in code structurally due to its elaborate interplay of lines and paratext notes, and paratexts-to-paratexts–and my goal here is to show something of its interweaving of physical and metaphysical places from distinct cultures. I’m eager to see what this looks like…so back to the tagging!

Madcap Adventures Part II: The Work Ahead

“What is now prov’d was once, only imagined.” A project team has formed, has met in person over three days (really four for those who arrived on Sunday and left Thursday), and has actually grown with new consulting editors–two excellent colleagues in the Pittsburgh area who discovered an interest in the Digital Mitford. I wanted to pinch my arm to see if I was dreaming many times last week: Collaboration is a new wonder and a new workflow. We hatched a plan together for a “Phase I” of the Digital Mitford to set expectations for ourselves. Everyone has begun learning new skills, including me!

Leading this workshop was a marathon, combining teaching with intense on-the-spot thinking and long-range planning in a compressed and charged moment. I found myself badly in need of sleep on the other side of it, and today I am taking stock of what must happen now: I review the first coded documents of my team: 11 digital surrogates of some very interesting ms letters and some partly formed autotagged texts of plays and poems that we’ve begun work on. I’ve been scrawling to-do lists and will be posting more about this on the Digital Mitford blog…but in this space I want to seize a moment to reflect on something more fundamental. Everything is changing, shifting in emphasis–in the past few weeks of planning and experiencing this workshop, I’m reorienting my way of thinking about research and teaching–my professional life’s work and work-as-life.

Since I was a student and chose to set off on an academic path, I’ve known myself to be pursuing a calling, that “my life” would be absorbed in it rather than compartmentalized from it. What I thought of my work as a young grad student has altered over time, with the compartmentalized experiences of university life: One’s teaching cannot always be an expression of one’s research, one must write committee reports, one is responsible to others who do not share one’s passions, and one retreats to one’s very real earthy garden or to one’s ball of yarn to take one’s mind away from fret and anxiety. One *is* compartmentalized–that’s life, but…I begin to think *now*–surely as a result of this collaborative adventure–that integration and concentration of one’s driving interests is a source of renewal and direction, perhaps in multiple facets that might not otherwise intersect. What am I contemplating?

My teaching will change this fall. If it doesn’t, I won’t be satisfied with it–I’ll have settled on an old, cold form disconnected from my transformative adventures of the past year. My coding projects lead me to wonder about the methods that matter for my students.  As I think about the stages involved in my project, I think about the stages students might take in researching and writing on a smaller scale. I want to engage students in processes that don’t necessarily expect them to reveal a *totality* of understanding or imply a *comprehensiveness.* It’s a familiar thing for me to scale down and “focus” assignment topics, but perhaps what I’m after now is an *expansion* from the scale of words and phrases.

A key question now: Can I bring my students closer to poetic language by asking them to annotate rather than explicate? Annotation is something I did in a freshman English course with great satisfaction, and without computer tools beyond the word processors of the early 1990s. Now there are more possibilities available for such work. Annotation assignments should *precede* explication at the very least.

A problem: 19th-c. Brit Lit: do I want to sacrifice reading and discussion time to teach XML coding? No–because I’m doing that in the DH class. What’s called for here is a digital tool in place, easy to access–ideally local, though we don’t have such a thing (yet!) Instead:

A feasible practice for my non-DH literature classes: I think I will try a collaborative annotation platform that I learned about from an extensive teaching praxis discussion in the HASTAC community. This is a remarkable project called “Rap Genius” which has been expanding far beyond the annotation and explication of rap lyrics to include texts of poems from past centuries in its “Poetry Genius” extension, and educators can upload texts and assignments here for students to work on. I was amazed to discover  several of Mitford’s short poems in this site, and I’m not really sure how they got here–though likely it’s the result of an automated incorporation of documents from Project Gutenberg or other text-based sources. What’s significant here: The ability to load clean base texts (not bad OCR or image files), and the ability for students to interact with them at the level of the language. The idea that this began as a site to archive and analyze rap lyrics interests me because of its attention to orality of poetic language, metrical patterns, rhymes, dissonance, assonance, consonance. This is worth exploring really as a kind of *lab space* to work closely with the oral/aural intricacies of poetic language.

Here’s another potentially useful site for teaching prosody, though the interface is not quite so open or expansive, but really focused on learning to mark meter and recognize poetic forms: “For Better or Verse.”   This large tutorial site is organized in stages and offers some fascinating selections–though my problem with it is the singularity of interpretation: The design of this extensive tutorial gives little room for variations in reading and emphasis–the human quirks that can’t easily be formulated in code. Yet it may offer students unfamiliar with poetic form a way to recognize structures–a game environment for learning. It’s worth a try.

I hope that digital annotation methods can help students to appreciate poetry rather than avoid close analysis, but my reorientation of literature assignments need not stop with poems–or especially the short lyric poems. Longer forms in prose or poems would be interesting to have students analyze in a digital lab environment, collaborating to investigate contexts and raise questions that might, I hope, lead to individual writing that’s more inspired by active learning rather than receptive, reflexive iteration. One of my colleagues on the Digital Mitford project teaches literature by having students write in collaborative contexts, and much of my writing here is inspired by recent conversations during our workshop.

As I engage in collaboration, I am caught up in learning and hope to share something of the sublime wonder of that experience with students. The realities of implementation and proof follow. I’m caught up in a confluence of ideas and possibilities, but my  implementation must be localized, dependent on the best interface with text and network that works for my group and our conversation. We live and work and dream in communities.

Madcap Adventures Part I: Mitford Coding Workshop

A short post but an effusive one to record an eventful and momentous day:  I absolutely loved what happened in our kickstart of the Mitford workshop today. We triumphed over inevitable odds: Of course, the demons that possess HDMI and VGA cables and ports prevented projection from my computer, but we needed it not! We sat about a round table, and everyone could see each other’s screen so we made a sort of connected chain–so people could readily follow my links through our workshop, and  we all helped each other when we got lost. One especially helpful project participant (our Rebecca Nesvet) wrote up detailed notes to send to our Google Hangouts members to fill in when they had connection troubles–so she helped to ensure that our coding circle reached out to our people with hiccup-y connections in LA, Boston, and England. We worked together and made technology work for us! And my team bravely asked questions and helped each other onward.

Our workshop materials are here, and I’m very much indebted to the WWP (Women Writers’ Project), Their excellent slides introduced me to TEI for manuscripts, and that’s where I’ve started my team. Tomorrow they all start coding their own letters–I’m so proud of our group!

Digital Mitford Site Launch!

. . .and there is much rejoicing! We now have a project site, and a seed start on our digital garden:

The site address will be changing in about a month as we move to a new server. For now, it’s a beginning, and you can see something of what we hope to do with the Digital Mitford project! I am very pleased with learning a new JavaScript trick–I’d never cycled images before.  You can see one editing project nearly finished on the site, for a sampling of the TEI and versioning I’ve been working on. As much as I like the ease of use of JuxtaCommons and the Versioning Machine, I would like to devise my own parallel text view, which will take some coding fun with XSLT.

Feedback on site design and project parameters is most welcome.

Building and Testing Connections: Global Mitford and THATCamp Pittsburgh

This has been quite an exciting, even frabjous week, full of the making and testing of connections! In preparation for our Digital Mitford workshops, to connect with three participants in Reading, England, Los Angeles, and Boston who can’t come to Pitt-Greensburg in person, we’ve been testing Microsoft Lync, because it’s the digital network connection software officially recommended by my university. I’d tested it semi-successfully earlier this month with people on PC-compatible machines, but noted lots of bugs and serious challenges–I doubt I’d be able to efficiently run a workshop and be quite sure of what I’m doing in Lync. (And apparently I’m not alone in my assessment.) It was very easy to break connections in Lync.  Sharing programs online was laggy, and watching someone remotely scrolling through a shared file was a recipe for nausea. I now have two versions of Lync installed, Lync 2013 and Lync 2010, to test the functionality of each–and this week I am relieved to say that we are NOT using it! This is absolutely liberating!

We are not using Lync because it is practically incompatible with Mac users, unless they can afford or have access to Office 365 software and can purchase Lync 2011 for Macs. It seems a shame that Microsoft could not design a more robust and interoperable web interface, particularly since a much better solution exists in Google Hangouts. (Evidently there’s a running feud between Google and Microsoft, and we may begin to see who’s winning…) The only slight drawback is that my project team needs to set up Google Plus accounts for us to hold live meetings and share destkops and programs. Having tested it today with at one point five people, though, we have demonstrated seamless interoperability, with an occasionally laggy connection that can be restored momentarily. People don’t have to restart software, aren’t missing parts of an interface,  and best of all, we can forget the technology and simply meet–and don cartoon pirate hats and funny faces. Compared to the whimsicality and ease of Google Hangouts, Microsoft Lync seems a grim and fragile interface at best.

Our Digital Mitford group  has now experienced its first international meeting–and in the same week I’ve been meeting more colleagues practicing Digital Humanities around me in the Pittsburgh, PA region and discovering wonderful new things to learn and try! A group of faculty, librarians, and students from Chatham, Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, Seton Hill, Washington and Jefferson College, the Mattress Factory archive, and elsewhere met at the Heinz History Center to plot strategies for THATCamp Pittsburgh–the very first THATCamp for our region. Many of us (including this digital Romanticist) are new to THATCamp culture, and discovered the challenge of planning for unscripted spontaneity! I found this a wonderful meeting of minds and was delighted to meet colleagues from Duquesne and Carnegie Mellon who are keen to swap knowledge: In return for my sharing an introduction to TEI XML and autotagging,  I’m delighted to learn from my colleagues more about social network analysis! A most impressive example of this is the Six Degrees of Francis Bacon project at CMU.

Both Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures and our Digital Mitford project would seem to provide excellent bases for social network analysis, and as we develop our personographies for both projects, I look forward to learning how to visualize graphically their connections to each other and to understand more of the statistics involved. My own brief research leads me to want to try Philip Leifeld’s Discourse Network Analyzer (with the compelling acronym DNA): DNA seems especially suited for charting how people are connected, based on shared ideas and frequency of interaction. Of course, we need more coded texts… I’m glad my Mitford project team is as eager to begin work as I am!

Metaphoric Confession: A “DH” Tent and A Digital Garden

I confess to being an outspoken newbie to the “digital humanities,” but I’m keenly surveying the field, and I’m glad to read critiques of it. There are things that I confess both excite and concern me deeply about DH, to do with authority, quality, and inclusiveness. David Golumbia’s blog post on “definitions that matter (of ‘digital humanities’)” shocks and sobers this eager digital romanticist…and it strikes me as yes, quite apt in its critique of the “big tent” metaphor for DH. The big tent disguises its own digital divide, warns Golumbia, and when we consider the awarding of grant funding for “DH” projects, we begin to see a more narrow definition–and we can readily intuit who need not apply.

I am glad of this warning note from the self-pronounced “digital skeptic.” And I confess to the weakness of exceptionalist bias! I want my own projects to be different, to be inclusive and instructive, to educate and uplift and help to transform what we understand of literature and culture of past centuries. I want my practice of coding to reach out and include students and colleagues, to help disclose new topics of discourse, to help build new communities.  Can there be a culture of coding, and a cultivation of the intellect and imagination through the digital humanities? If so, it’s not going to appeal to everyone, and the time and money to do it seems to be limited, as Golumbia warns.

Maybe humanities research needs to be esoteric, and whether digital or not, should not be puffed (to use an old-fashioned 19th-century term) with hot air to outsized tents that blow away and disappear as funding streams are cut.  I can say, though, based on my humble experience, that much experimentation with humanities computing for teaching and research need not require a start-up grant or millions of dollars. Good experimentation of any kind does take time, and that time certainly can be defined in dollar amounts. Is my time well spent? Six months ago I was not sure, but in connecting with people who care about sharing knowledge, and in devoting much time (and losing sleep many a long night of coding!) in the past spring, I am confident in saying, yes, this is worth my energies, where I am placed now. I think it worthwhile, since I can, to try to grow a digital garden, with deep roots and rhizomatic linkages and, I hope, perennial blooms that outlast the current (funding) season.

For very practical reasons, in working with noncanonical texts, I believe that learning to code is the best direction for the kind of feminist archival and rediscovery work we’re doing…but I confess a great concern about the direction of grant funding in our times: Is there money and support for research into *noncanonical texts and topics*? Must the “digital humanities” be defined by dollars? I’d rather it were defined by collaborative connections, like my Digital Mitford project team coming together out of mutual interest on the fly (and on the cheap!) this year and the social discourse we can engage in through organizations like HASTAC.

Down to earth with me! Try googling “digital garden” and…I see one project which is really much more earthy but seems to share my digital idealism about building community and improving discourse! This is as good a moment as any to consider that imaginative constructions in texts script and shape and drive our interactions, that “what is now proved was once, only imagin’d”. . . and written, and coded, and read.

UX Thoughts: A Confession

I confess to feeling overcome with visions of design at the start of a project–especially a digital project. Launching these blogs has been a comforting detour. I’ve been enjoying the instant gratification of “trying on” site designs that WordPress offers. Our Mitford Project will not have the comforting support of a content management system (CMS), at least not at the start, because I don’t want to be struggling with rigid structures and predetermined choices in site design that might crimp our style with coding. My hope is that we’ll never actually need a CMS—-even though we do anticipate a massive website. I’d like our site to be purely under the control of our project team, and not at the mercy of a product designer’s corporate style.  Designing for an appealing UX (or user experience) can be very difficult: a good CMS can of course streamline the process, but really they are not to be trusted—-and I am determined to make a go of a site design myself. To do this well we will need to be very clear about what we’re representing from our coding projects, and how we expect our viewers to interact with our site.  The more help I have on this matter the better—-provided I can think this through for myself and not surrender to a prefab system.  My readers, do you have thoughts on this vexing subject?

But I did enjoy designing these blogs once I found my way to images that would personalize and distinguish them. The background for this site is adapted from a wonderful colorized illustration of Drury Lane Theatre of August 1808, which I found on wikimedia commons. The commons site reports that it was “published as plate 32 of Microcosm of London (1808)”. I ran it through Photoshop to enlarge it for the site, and then experimented with some of Photoshop’s filters to stylize it. I decided today to try out a different but related background of Regency era Covent Garden Theatre for the Digital Mitford blog, the same I used for our Facebook MRM group.

Why the early 19th-century theatre interiors? Need you ask? They are glorious spaces in which to be writing and reading, are they not? More to the point, these blog images connect with the Digital Mitford project: Mary Russell Mitford achieved remarkable success with staging historical tragedies in London’s Royal Theatres (Drury Lane and Covent Garden) in the 1820s, and studying her plays in the past year has opened a fascinating area of interest: How did playwrights negotiate with theatre managers in the 19th-century to produce plays? How did women playwrights negotiate and network with powerful men who were both celebrity performers and actor-managers in the 1820s Royal Theatres?  Writing for the London theatres, I’ve learned, necessitated some measure of compromise and serious tension, as a famous actor-manager (like William Charles Macready) could agree to perform a  play (like Mitford’s Julian), and then proceed to recommend (demand?) significant alterations of parts. The Royal Theatres were for Mitford a setting for some of her most remarkable accomplishments, boosting her fame (if not her fortune) in the 1820s, and they are also a site of great interest in the negotiation of control over texts—-a hot point of textual alchemy generated in nerve-wracking frictions between actors and authors.

As I think about site design and editing tasks ahead, the sight of the Royal Theatres suggests to me a fascinating challenge: Particularly when editing Mitford’s plays we will need to code multiple versions and begin documenting the differences between manuscript and published play post-production. How we present these differences matters and will demonstrate our editorial approach to vexed and dynamic texts. We shall surely have more to say on this subject on the Digital Mitford blog!