SKILLNET – Sharing Knowledge in Learned and Literary Networks

SKILLNET Conference 17-18 November 2022

Final Conference: Digital approaches to the Republic of Letters: network research, text mining, and infrastructures

Key-note speakers and provisional titles:

Sepideh Alassi (University of Basel – Digital Humanities Lab):
(BEOL project): Bernoulli-Euler Online as a scientific correspondence network
Eero Hyvönen (Aalto University/University of Helsinki – HELDIG):
LetterSampo – Historical Letters on the Semantic Web: A Framework and Its Application to Publishing and Using Epistolary Data

On November 17-18 2022,  SKILLNET will be organizing the conference “Digital Approaches to the Republic of Letters”. The preliminary programme can be found below.

Why do certain learned people and scientific communities prevail over others? The answers to this question are no doubt to be found in processes of knowledge transfer, authorization, crisis-management, stabilization and community formation. Various projects study these processes using digital technologies. But how exactly do we operationalize such processes in digital research of networks and textual or pictorial repositories? How do we come to answers about power distribution, cultural hegemony and authorization of knowledge, based on digital analyses of big historical knowledge-data?

This two-day conference takes stock of digital research of the learned community of (early) modern Europe. What kind of experiments have been conducted? What kind of historical questions have we been able to answer with DH methods? How successful are we in linking datasets? What are best practices when it comes to merging datasets? What is the state of our current infrastructures?

If you want to attend the conference as a participant, you can sign up here. The deadline for registration is November 8. There are only a limited number of spots available. So it’s advised to sign up early.

If you cannot attend the conference but are interested, you can watch the livestream.
Livestream day 1
Livestream day 2

The conference takes place at Utrecht University Hall (Academiegebouw Universiteit Utrecht). Located at domplein 29, 3512 JE Utrecht.

The conference starts on Thursday 17 november at 12:00 and ends on Friday around 17:30 with drinks.

The Huygens ‘ePistolarium’ (2009-2013), the Stanford ‘Mapping the Republic of Letters’ project (2012-2017),  and the COST Action ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’ (2014-2019) raised the expectations about the DH possibilities by defining standards, based on experiments. Researchers of the ERC SKILLNET project (2017-2022) applied network analysis to Republic of Letters, and text-mining to early modern letters and biographical dictionaries. . In the meantime, the Historical Network Research group and its concomitant journal created a community for historical network analysis, whereas the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science runs the project Socio-epistemical networks: Modelling Historical Knowledge Processes (Model SEN). While Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO) and CorrespSearch continue to amass ego-catalogues of epistolary metadata, predominantly of the 17th and 19th centuries, respectively, the e-Enlightenment project tries to ‘reconnect the first global social network’, adding digital texts to tens of thousands of metadata of primarily 18th-c. letters.

New research projects have been underway. Some of them are focused on digital editions of the correspondences of individuals, such as the Leibniz-Edition (Akademie-Ausgabe), Pierre Bayle (Antony McKenna), Belle van Zuylen (Suzan van Dijk), Elizabeth Montagu (Nicole Pohl), and Linnaeus, to name but a few. Crowdsourcing projects have given us the letters of Jeremy Bentham and epistolary metadata in the CEMROL project.

Others were focused on merging existing repositories and experimenting with aggregated data, such as he Semantic Computing Research Group (SeCo) from Aalto University and the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities (HELDIG) from the University of Helsinki, which created the LetterSampo Framework. Other examples include Bernoulli Euler Online (BEOL), the Networking Archives project, and, lately, the Korrespondenzen der Frühromantik. Together with other repositories such as Archilet (Italy), EpistolArt (Belgium), the Frühneuzeitliche Ärtztebriefe des deutschsprachigen Raums (1500-1700) (Würzburg) and the BIA platform  of the Medici Archive Project (Florence), the promises are tantalizing. Yet, in the past five years, we have also learned how time consuming and laborious it is to disambiguate data, merge repositories and link databases into distributed ontologies.

In short, the study of the Republic of Letters is thriving with all sorts of digital experiments, as more and more data become available in better standardised formats. At the same time, the individuals and teams who carry out all these experiments are not yet forming a densely clustered network of their own. An extra goal of this conference is to increase our own clustering coefficient!

Programme Day 1 – Thursday

12.00 registration & lunch

12.30 Word of welcome by Dirk van Miert (Principal investigator of SKILLNET)

12.45 – 13:30 Keynote 1: Eero Hyvönen (LetterSampo project) Historical Letters on the Semantic Web: A Framework and Its Application to Publishing and Using Epistolary Data

13.30-13:45 break

13:45 – 15:30 Panel 1: Networks 

-Caitlin Burge (Networking Archives project): The King and Minister: A Network Approach to Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII and Authorship

-Ina Habermann & Lukas Rosenthaler (SwissBritNet project): Research-driven data modeling and the development of intelligent queries

-Manuel Huth (Medicinae Alumni Vitebergenses project): The MAV-project. A prosopographic analysis of the medical alumni of the Wittenberg university (1502-1648)

-Manou Vermeire, Raf van Rooy, & Margherita Fantoli (KU Leuven): The Database of the Leuven Trilingue (DaLeT): Aims, Contents, and Opportunities for Social Network Analysis

15:30-15:45 break

15:45 -17:30 Panel 2 Stylistical analysis:

– Gianluca Valenti (epistolarITA project): The epistolarITA project. Achievements, challenges, and prospects a few months after its launch

-Wouter Kreuze (EURONEWS project): Tracing Text Reuse: Understanding the Early-Modern News Network

-Andrea Peverelli (TransLatin project): The process of imitatio in Neo-Latin Drama through stylometric analysis: the case of Terence’s Eunuchus

-Bernardo Sousa Buarque & Malte Vogl (ModelSEN project): Growing and Pruning the Republic of Letters: An Agent-Based Model to Build Letter Correspondence Networks.

18.30 Conference dinner at De Rechtbank (speakers only)

Programme day 2 – Friday

08:45 doors open

09:15 – 10:00 Keynote 2: Sepideh Alassi (BEOL project): The Bernoulli-Euler Online Project (BEOL)

10:00-10:15 break

10:15 – 12:00 Panel 3: early career scholar presentations:

-Karin Sprang: Transalpine Travellers and Friendly Affairs: Alba Amicorum in Early Modern Italy, ca. 1550-1700

– Rosalie Versmissen: Rethinking the social network of scholars, rhetoricians and artists in the Low Countries (1560 – 1610)

– Ellen van Heteren: The challenges of simultaneous data creation and cleaning

– Adam Dargiewicz: Citation and memory in Johannes a Lasco’s letters

– Hanneke de Boer: Was a stadholder’s wife a member of the RoL?

12:00-13:15 lunch

13:15-15:00 Epistolary Data workshops:

-Geert Kessels & Pim van Bree: ‘Learn how to connect and reconcile epistolary datasets with NodeGoat’

-Liliana Melgar: ‘The Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum: a Jupyter Notebook’

-Senka Drobac & Ilona Pikkanen: ‘Namesakes or Mistakes? Identifying duplicate person names by using web portal and/or custom Python script’

15:00-15:30 break

15:30 – 17:15 panel 4: SKILLNET research reports

-Koen Scholten: Digital Textual Analysis of Latin Vitae and Elogia of Learned Men

-Ingeborg van Vugt: Unlinked: conflict management and structural balance in the Republic of Letters

-Aron Ouwerkerk: Mapping the ‘Republic of Letters’ in East Central European Correspondences

– Dirk van Miert: Sharing data & building infrastructure

17:15- 17:30 wrap up

17:30 drinks

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 724972).