Networks in Literature

At first the concept of a ‘network’ seemed limited to me, only really relevant for social networking sites and interpersonal relationships. However, since beginning class and putting some serious thought into networks for possibly the first time in my life I’ve come to realize that there is really no end to the types of objects that can be linked together into a network. As an avid reader, I was pleases to see that researchers have begun to build a network of books by using computer programs to analyze style and theme.

Thousands of books were included in the study of 19th Century novels, creating a network. While reading the article “Dickens, Austen and Twain, Through a Digital Lens,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/technology/literary-history-seen-through-big-datas-lens.html?pagewanted=2&ref=technology ) I noticed that the author was essentially talking about a weighted network, which looks at the number and strength of similarities in word choice and theme to determine the strength of connection between novels. Since we learned about weighted networks in class, I was able to picture the links between books and how some would be more substantial than others when the novels are more similar than others in the network. The results of this research shows that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe have had the greatest effect on other authors.

The fuel for research that is connecting novels into networks includes the proliferation of digital books, making Google Books the ideal environment for this research. Through the expansive collection of books on the Google Books site, researchers have been able to study word choice and even graph the frequency with which certain words are used.

These new network methods have the potential to move out of the theoretical influence of one author on another and into practical applications within the real world. Researchers will be able to study popular advertising campaigns for similarities, allowing businesses to combine the most common aspects between these advertisements into an effective campaign. Reading about the work being done in advertising I can’t help but wonder, what other applications does this sort of language- and style-related networking have?

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One thought on “Networks in Literature”

  1. I really enjoyed your post in fact, I sympathize with this. It is interesting to find that networks have become relevant even in “Literature” by bringing people with similar interest together and facilitating research engines as well.

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