Letters of 1916: Preliminary Social Network

For a first post on this blog, I thought I’d present a first network graph derived from the senders/recipients of the Letters of 1916 project. (Thanks to Roman Bleier for his Python-based analysis tools, which made picking apart Excel files pleasingly trivial.)

A few preliminary thoughts:

Our corpus congregates around a few individual (which you’d expect, given the rather self-contained nature of the collections it’s derived from).

But then again, we’ve got lots of individuals, grouped round the edge, only connected by one letter (and not to any wider groups).

Lady Clonbrock was on first-name terms with some people, and not with others.

Most letters were sent to or by ‘anonymous’ (the unlabelled node in the middle) — which is almost certainly quite a few people. As such, the entire graph is massively skewed (actually it’s probably even less interconnected than it looks).

Click to see large image (6Mb)

There are so many flaws with this it’s scarcely worth mentioning them all (but I’ll valiantly try): the data is a raw spreadsheet dump from the ongoing work on the project; the lack of normalisation is a problem (see “Lady Clonbrock [née whatever]”); and the missing data really is a problem (any suggestions, aside from historical investigation?). There is also the fact that I don’t understand the details of the graph-plotting algorithm, so it’s difficult to say exactly in what way this graph represents the corpus.

However, my main thought that arises from this is: what will any sort of analysis of a network of letters (at the level of the letters) actually mean? At worst, it’s indicative only of how we’ve gone about collecting letters (and the people we’ve persuaded to bring them); at best, it might say something about the processes by which some letters have survived a hundred years. Anyway, it is a network of the data of the project — ‘a network of Dublin letters’ is too great a claim for the scanty evidence of this network.


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