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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 1: Keynote Lectures 2023: 'Big Data' in History?: The Use of Social Network Analysis in Medieval Studies - Challenges and Perspectives (Language: English) / Medieval Manuscripts: Physical and Intellectual Networks Entwined (Language: English)

Monday 3 July 2023, 09.00-10.30


Speaker A: Robert Gramsch-Stehfast, Historisches Institut, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Speaker B: Anna Somfai, Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest/Wien
Introduction: Johannes Preiser-Kapeller, Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien

Abstract: 'Big Data' in History?: The Use of Social Network Analysis in Medieval Studies - Challenges and Perspectives
The rapid development of computer technologies has great consequences for the humanities. Medieval Studies are confronted with new digital tools and methods which fundamentally change the traditional workflow of historical research. One particularly promising instrument of Digital Humanities is Social Network Analysis (SNA), a quantitative approach to study various types of entanglements in the past. But many open questions remain. To name only a few: which instruments of SNA are appropriate for Medieval Studies? Which new insights can be gained? Are there typical restrictions set by the scarcity and ambiguity of sources? What is the cost-benefit ratio of SNA studies, which usually demand the elaborate gathering of a large quantity of data? My keynote will discuss these questions while demonstrating some best-practice examples and defining a feasible framework of network research in Medieval Studies. Particular attention will be paid to appropriate network modelling of historical scenarios and the potential of modern text-mining technologies for efficient data gathering.

Abstract: Medieval Manuscripts: Physical and Intellectual Networks Entwined
In this lecture I will address the genesis and working of what I consider the physical and intellectual networks embedded in and based on manuscripts. Medieval manuscripts are physical objects that have transmitted texts and images in specific instances and provide us now with evidence concerning the mindsets, interests, and scholarship of those who produced and used them. They testify to a physical transmission process as well as embodying an intellectual reception history through textual and visual glosses, shedding light on the development of concepts and exchange of ideas.
Medieval manuscripts were handwritten, designed mentally as well as physically. Thus, the flexibility involved in the process of creating new copies of texts allowed individual scribes to introduce designs and tools that facilitated the best ways to transfer ideas, targeting a time- and topic-specific readership. Further additions over time of textual and visual glosses also brought the readers' reflection into the manuscript, enriching it and adding layers to what had originally been in place. Manuscripts thus created a physical network, one that grew out of the intricacies of the physical process of copying from exemplar(s) and linking often distant manuscripts while transmitting a text or a body of texts. The resulting links that can be now traced provide the story of the physical connections, the physical network. The annotator-readers contributed with their gloss, their ad hoc remarks or doodles to a headspace shared over time and space. They impacted on each other and reacted to the ideas introduced by fellow readers as they engaged with what met their eyes and minds. Their engagement created yet another network, one of an intellectual kind. The physical and intellectual networks converged in the body of the manuscript. I shall in the present talk, by looking at case studies, discuss the relationship between these two networks and highlight the element of connection in the creative acts of physical copying and intellectual engagement.