This week’s readings made me mainly think of the importance of thinking in a bidirectional way when we “borrow” network sciences methodologies (but also other sciences’ methodologies) in order to better serving the purpose of humanities.
Weingart’s blog diffusely informs us about the hidden dangers in translating methodologies. He states that, “This reduction of data comes at a price […] The important thing is either to be aware of what you are losing when you reduce your objects to one or a few types of nodes, or to change the methods of network science to fit your more complex data.” I was wondering if it could be equally interesting, as a critical thinking approach, trying to keep the methods of network science when applied to humanities and therefore analyze if, by doing so, the humanities methodology has to change an eventually how it changes. In order words, should we properly use network science methodology just as a way to enhance humanities methodology or could we maybe change (hopefully) for better this methodology? Is there a form of scholarly citation in the digital era that is radically different form the ‘most powerful’ one proposed by the philosopher? The computer science seems to touch this point when he talks about the “desire to reproduce the traditional research structure with all its (old fashioned?) virtues” and cites Wikipedia as an example (perhaps implying Nupedia and Citizendium too) but then the discussion switches toward the tradition/innovation debate and the necessity of a cultural mutation (it is worth to notice that the idea of mutation implies, if beneficial, not just the improvement of a specific feature but rather the creation of a new, and ultimately different and unique feature: just to say, Cyclops is a structurally different entity compared to the ‘enhanced man’ Batman).
I think this analyze of “The Social Network of Dante’s Inferno” could be an example of a well balanced and partly bidirectional interaction between different methodologies. I would like to points out in particular the considerations about fig.2
where the authors state that, “according to the visible the evolution one can say that the network exhibits a ‘winner takes all’ effect — very similar to the well known preferential attachment model of the Web”. I think that this similarity is very reassuring in terms of a proper use of translated methodology (as in Weingart) but could also serve as a standpoint for a bidirectional approach in rethinking the nature of (in this case) literary analyses methodology.