, , ,

Republic of Letters

I had just stopped looking for badwords on google’s nGrams, when I found this project.
I can’t say if I am more interested in the quantitative aspect of it, or in that related to visualization.
It’s not by chance is based at Stanford, you can actually feel how Morettish (or is it Stanfordish?)  it is.

By the way, in this case, you can see how the row data are used by scholars. The main data comes from the correspondance between intellectuals in Eighteenth-century, and the map focuses on the international and geographical exchanges related to it.
I have found also an interesting post that explains the technology of data-mining  involved and a Stanford’s video giving a general overview of the project.

The title of the video, Tracking 18th-century “social network” through letters, is probably too synthetic, as it should be translated as Tracking 18th-century “social network” of intellectuals mostly coming from the upper class through letters, (not to mention the fact that the same letters were, for some reasons, saved from oblivion).

Anyway, besides the usual socio-historical critic (and I feel quite tired to stress all the time on this issue) , the tool is a powerful one, as you can imagine. Especially when you think about the importance of Geneve in the intellectual exchange. It would be amazing to make a similar data-mapping of – for instance – the letters and books sent from and to the Societé Tipographique of Neuchâtel, that was responsible of several edition of banned books in the 18th century (yes indeed, I am quoting the marvelous study by Darnton) [in fact, I can’t remember if Darnton himself presented a Map in his book] or, even more interesting, of the Tipografia Remondini from Bassano del Grappa.

As for the visualization of data, have a look at the Vis Group from… Stanford again, or much more interesting for us Human(ist)s, the toolingup for Digital Humanities centre (or project?).