By Matthew Hannah
Reading texts in philosophy, literature, or history, I always notice the relationships. These relationships form the background of the text, often constituting the plot of a novel or the historical conditions under which a philosophical or historical work was written. For many scholars, these relationships are significant in themselves, and we look for ways to distill them from the print material. With network software, we now can.
Because I just offered a workshop on Palladio for the Honors College, I thought I’d review this valuable tool for basic social network analysis. Designed by a team at Stanford University, Palladio offers analysts an easy-to-use option for network visualization, and I have often relied on it to build networks for my dissertation project. Network analysis has become an important aspect of DH, as scholars have begun to think about cultural production and historical contexts in terms of relationality or connections between independent points called nodes. Although other programs such as R, Gephi, or Node XL allow for more robust network analysis, Palladio provides a stable platform on which to visualize basic graphs while also offering other tools for analysis at the same site.
This program relies on tabular data much like any other network software. Using an Excel spreadsheet, insert the list of relational data: source to target. These lists of nodes establish a series of relationships, which the program will interpret as lines, called edges. Copying and pasting this material from Excel into the box on the Palladio homepage and click “Start.” This opens up a new page with table data listed on the sidebar, which users can use to create networks and more.
This network graph shows the range of topics written about by contributors to The Freewoman magazine from 1910-1912.
Palladio also offers other analysis tools, using the same tabular data. For example, adding GPS coordinates to the tabular data allows scholars to use a mapping feature in which nodes are plotted onto a world map as single points or as point-to-point trajectories. Furthermore, Palladio includes a gallery function, which allows an analyst to create an exhibit of individual nodes, including names, biographical information, and pictures. Palladio also includes data and table functions that lay out the data in different ways.
This world map feature allows a scholar to visualize spatial networks as well such as this world map showing the circuits of subscriptions from The Freewoman. But, Palladio also includes a timeline and timespan tool, which can interpret dates and create a timeline from them. The timeline and timespan features represent this data as either a timeline of events or a bar graph.
What makes Palladio so interesting is the existence of multiple tools on one site. Whereas other network programs focus solely on social network analysis, Palladio includes other easy-to-use features. I found it incredibly useful for my dissertation research and continue to rely on this tool and encourage you to play with it. Stay tuned for future workshops on Palladio and social network analysis!