netcologies_cover_20160728_scaled-2The Network Ecologies digital Scalar publication is the culmination of a five-year, multi-format, interdisciplinary venture to curate a dynamic scholarly digital publication. It has been, for us, a collaborative creative-critical interrogation into the theoretical and scholarly implications of the digital on rigorous scholarly publication. My design partner Florian Wiencek and I set out to create a ‘networked publication’ and we believe we’ve done just that. We have content ranging from text-based essays to a visual art 3D scanning documentary project that was created specifically for our publication. You’ll find transmedia essays on art, technics, data visualization, book-making, theory, mentorship, architecture, network engineering, gaming, and capitalism. You’ll find tweets, videos, text, and tools. You’ll even find a garden gnome or two lurking throughout.

The goal of this project was for each of us to bring our own research—developed and delivered in our own unique disciplinary vernaculars—together to converge around a shared concept. The assumption is that through transdisiplinary co-mingling and collaboration, both our individual research projects and the Network Ecologies publication, as a living research hub, can gain new dimension. We hope that by putting diverse minds in dialogue with each other, we can facilitate a more robust understanding of the network by way of merging and (re)mixing multidisciplinary understandings.

We encourage you to start with the short Introduction to learn more about the full shape of the project and about navigating the publication and interacting (using with the content and with each other.

This project was funded by a Graduate Digital Scholarship Initiative grant from Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI), in conjunction with Duke’s PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge (PhD Lab).


Amanda Starling Gould

Stay tuned for daily posts as Florian and Amanda begin prototyping our stage-three digital digital Scalar publication. The goal of our publication is to capture the multimodal content – from video to blogs to images to tweets – from the first two stages of our project and to curate that into a living publication.

Starting Monday we will begin our week-long design sprint and will document our process along the way…

Here is a project – using Dr. Moore’s iRODS architecture – that may interest #netcologies scholars.

DARIAH aims to support and enhance digitally-enabled research across the arts and humanities and builds and maintains a research infrastructure for the wider digital humanities community.”

“The ‘Virtual Scriptorium St. Matthias’ will be an online edition with images of more than 450 medieval codices, mostly written between the eighth and sixteenth century, and a database with information from several manuscript catalogues. Although the supply of the library was dislocated in the time of secularisation most codices remained in the Public Library of Trier and in the library of the Episcopalian Seminary Trier (Becker 1996: 101-103). The latest catalogue of the codices used for the reconstruction can be found in Becker (1996: 66-71, 105-234). The project wants to enable the user to analyse a codex from any place at any time but also to present the codices as an ensemble of medieval writing and reading culture and as an institution of scholarship and knowledge (Embach et al. 2001: 492).”

“Although different software solutions are theoretically possible to realise the architecture, iRODS with its overall flexible structure seems to provide the most convenient mechanisms to deal with the humanistic research data of the ‘Virtual Scriptorium St. Matthias’ (iRods 2012). In this implementation two iRODS zones are used to realise a distributed, reliable storage resource. The responsibilities for data inside a zone and for the replications needed are clearly assigned to this specific zone. Additionally the overall performance is improved by using two data bases.”

via “Storage Infrastructure of the Virtual Scriptorium St. Matthias” (2012) by Vanscheidt, Rapp, & Tonne.

Special thanks to Dr. Moore for directing us to this site.


For more on iRODS,_Digital_Libraries,_Persistent_Archives,_and_Real-time_Data_Systems

Duda/Paine's Sketch of a City

Duda/Paine’s Sketch of a City

Clare sketches Medieval connections

Clare charts Medieval connections

Duda/Paine Architecture Plan

Duda/Paine Architecture Plan

Dr. Moore Graphs Policy Networks

Dr. Moore Graphs Policy Networks

Reblogged with permission from RT: Recent FHI events on Twitter

RT: Recent FHI events on Twitter

Submitted by Christina Chia on Mon, 10/21/2013 – 11:17am
“The Network_Ecologies symposium this past Friday and Saturday (October 18 and 19) had a lively presence on Twitter as well (as one might expect, given its theme!) For now, check out the #netcologies hashtag to reassemble the conversations among the diverse group of scholars, artists, theorists, and practitioners who participated. The symposium is part of Ecology of Networks, a two-year digital scholarship and publication project supported by the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge and directed by Literature PhD student Amanda Starling Gould. Expect to see the symposium proceedings in a multimedia web-based publication later on!”
Thanks Chris Chia (@ch3chia)!

Reblogged, with permission, from


“This weekend, I attended yet another conference – this time the Ecology of Networks Symposium held at Duke University (affectionally dubbed “#netcologies” for the livetweeters). The conference was an interesting affair that basically brought folks from every discipline under the sun together to talk about how they interpret and deal with networks in their field, from computer science to genetics to artwork. It was engaging and somewhat provocative, starting off fairly concretely in the morning and drifting into the curious and bizarre by the end of the night.

Originally, I was approached by Amanda to write some about my work in networks, and considering that the topic I had in mind was not specifically addressed during the symposium, I feel genuinely awful for flaking out. Much of the talks emphasized the connectedness of networks – networks as wholes of information that offer a very clear big picture that can’t be seen from the point of view of an individual node. It’s a shame, then, that the point of view of the individual node was not addressed. In a technical sense, working in networks has a lot of uncertainty. We have protocols like ethernet and WiFi that allow our networked devices to communicate, but they have to trust other devices not to violate the protocol in their own self-interest. Nodes have to trust one another in order to work together, and in many cases there isn’t much holding back bad behavior.

The first rule of making a website is to treat every visitor as an enemy and make sure they can’t break your website. In peer-to-peer networks, such as in social media or multiplayer computer games, this doesn’t necessarily work, so you have to make some concessions in order to be a part of the whole – is this other actor playing by the rules? What is the risk for communicating with it? This is touched on slightly by the very first talk of the session, when talking about policy-based networks, but what about emergent networks without hierarchies where a policy can not be encoded and enforced across the entire ecosystem?

Networks are inherently unreliable, so the most we can assume is that the network will make its “best effort” to deliver and receive information. When it comes to programming a node, this uncertainty drives nearly every decision – how often do we check for data? When do we assume we have been disconnected? How do we ensure we are actually talking to who we say we are, and not talking through a malicious eavesdropping intermediary? The talk that got the closest to this idea was the one around the Alternate Reality Game, Speculat1on, where the people participating in the game are no longer sure what is part of the network and what isn’t.

This isn’t to say that I was unhappy about the talk of positive and productive networks. My favorite talk of the entire show was by Patrick LeMieux on the networks of people behind who play games. Despite games being ostensibly a participatory medium, they are treated by their publishers as very one-directional things to be consumed. They can be engaged, but only in the appropriate channels, with modded consoles being banned from the Internet and modders even being sued.

In spite of this, people find ways to turn games into platforms upon which to develop new games, from speedruns of the original Mario Brothers game to the creation of chimeras that use the output of one game as the input of another. What was once simply a game to be played by oneself has become an ingredient in artwork that transcends the rules of games. While I believe in games as systems of rules that define a space (basis behind my research), these are the sorts of emergent “play” that transcends the games’ rules entirely. People are so fascinating.

This was a fun diversion! I met some interesting scholars and look forward to seeing how the digital publication of this work manifests itself. One them that was certainly dominant was the idea of networks as nonlinear modes of interacting and producing information, and it’s only appropriate that the final work will be published as a networked document on Scalar. A big takeaway from this symposium is that the network of interactions of content are worth as much if not more than the content itself, something that hits home for me as it serves as the foundation of educational data mining.”

Thanks to Barry Peddycord III (perhaps better known as @isharacomix) for the fantastic post-symposium post!


Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Artist, designer, scholar Florian Wiencek will introduce our Symposium with a private Friday evening presentation on using digital media for cultural learning. Stay tuned for information – this talk might be webcast!

“Digital Cultural Learning: Traversing Networks and Activating the Archive”

The idea of the network is central for our information society. From the Internet, over archives to knowledge: all can be perceived and analyzed as networks.

In my talk I will explore the idea of the network in these different areas and will discuss how it can be employed for cultural learning. Therefore I am departing from the concepts of Connectivism (George Siemens) and “Critical Mediation of Art” (Carmen Mörsch) and will discuss examples of the use of digital media for cultural learning and co-creative knowledge generation, in order to meet the challenges, which participatory culture presents for cultural institutions.

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Architect Turan Duda will be expanding on our Seven Wonders Network_Ecologies Interview in his Saturday morning presentation.

“Seven Wonders, A network of ideas (conceptual) and memories (experiential)”

As Architects, we are often asked to reside in two worlds simultaneously.
We are trained to think analytically in the abstract world of geometry, physics, and problem solving.
And yet, as human beings, we experience the world with our bodies and all our senses.
It is ultimately the attribution of meaning that binds these two worlds together.

What are the tools of design thinking that provide the means for integrating these contrasting realms of scale, typology and experience?

Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser

Artist, game designer, and Duke Ph.D. student, Patrick LeMieux designs art & videogames as theoretical tools to think with. On Saturday afternoon, we will be treated to a presentation of his work(s). They are unlike any games you’ve ever seen before!

“Networking the NES: Beyond the Dark Age of Digital Games”

In the dark age of digital games, located between the labs and arcades of the 60s and 70s and the networked communities of the late 90s, single-system software was designed for private play. Game designers mistook the one-player game as a technological constraint rather than a genre and players forgot that videogames were also toys. Phantom author functions were spoon-fed to consumers in the form of industry produced player’s guides, official hotlines, and advertising magazines which simultaneously taught consumers the “right” way to play while strategically masking the fact that videogames are agnostic to how they are played. After the home-console era, players began to produce experiences independent from the logic of the market and, as a result, games have changed (though the fantasy for an autonomous, ahistorical, and authored experience continues to drive the desire of both consumers and producers.) While Nintendo continues to ship the same ROM dumps to virtual consoles, Super Mario Bros. (1985) cannot be the same game that was first played almost thirty years ago. The intimate, serialized experience of private play has been radically transformed and reinvented through the physical network and the networked subjectivities of contemporary players. Once players began distributing ROM hacks online, building new multiplayer interfaces, competing in telematic races, and imagining the game in terms of a cultural history rather than software and hardware, Super Mario Bros. began to operate as a medium for making metagames, “ontological toys” (Bardee) with an infinite shelf life that thrives within a “playable network” (Novello). Based on the game, design, and philosophy practiced by speedrunners, sequence breakers, bug hunters, romhackers, modders, artists, and everyday players, I would like to share five project sketches within the framework of a network ecology.

Letters from distant lands: Carolingian intellectuals and their network(s)

Clare Woods, Classical Studies, Duke University

In the age of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other global social networking tools, networks, and ways in which we can (re)construct and analyze them, have become an important focus of research across the disciplines. This is no less true for those of us studying the premodern world, where networks (whether social, political, familial or intellectual) were both the fabric and the driving force of societies.

This post draws on material from my ongoing Carolingian Intellectual Networks project, the broad aim of which is to collect data on and map all the various connections between scholars, teachers and students in the late eighth through ninth centuries. The intellectuals I am studying were located across a large area of Europe comprising what is now France, the Low Countries, Switzerland, western parts of Germany and Austria, and northern Italy. This vast geographical area constituted the Carolingian Empire, a territory united by the military campaigns of Charlemagne in the later eighth century, and holding together, more or less, through the reigns of his successors until the late ninth century. This early medieval period–from about the 770s to the later ninth century–is usually referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance.

As the term “Renaissance” might suggest, the period was distinguished by its rich and sophisticated literary culture. Modern scholars have long been interested in Carolingian intellectuals and in the centres that housed them, usually monasteries or cathedrals, or the courts of aristocrats and kings. [1] To date, studies have tended to focus on individual scholars or individual schools, and typically on the very small number of individuals or centres for which we have the most data. Crucially, these studies are text-based. Maps and diagrams might be used to illustrate or clarify a point, but rarely work to enhance data and provoke further discovery. This post interrogates two recent (and representative) text-based studies of early medieval scholars and intellectual networks. Through visualizing data captured from these studies, I explore the challenges encountered in reconstructing early medieval intellectual networks and demonstrate the limitations of text-based network analyses. As we shall see, these are of necessity selective, offering in consequence only partial or fractured glimpses of the whole. If we are to reconstruct a total intellectual network in all its complexity, we need to start exploring the possibilities offered by new digital tools, preferably tools that allow for dynamic visualizations of our data. In addition, I hope that this post demonstrates the power of the visualization process itself, a process that enables–even requires–us to ask different and larger questions of our data.

What we know about Carolingian intellectuals we know because they wrote–to each other, for each other, occasionally about themselves. Quite possibly the richest source of information about Carolingian intellectuals–their interactions, connections, and networks–are the collections of letters that survive from the period. [2] The two studies I have chosen to interrogate in this post use letters as their primary source for establishing and discussing connections between Carolingian intellectuals.


Letters from the Classroom

The first study is an article by John J. Contreni entitled “The Carolingian School: Letters from the Classroom”. [3] While Contreni did not explicitly set out to reconstruct an intellectual network, his piece is useful for our purposes because of the wide selection of scholars featured in it. From the intellectual scene Contreni sketches, networks emerge.


Diagram 1

Diagram 1, constructed using Wordle, serves to introduce the more than forty individuals whose connections are discussed in Contreni’s paper. By counting the number of times each individual’s name occurs in Contreni’s text, I was able to produce a word cloud that provides a sense of the relative influence and importance of each intellectual, at least for Contreni. This representation of Contreni’s “network” gives an impression of the size of the scholarly crowd, but is most useful for identifying those individuals within it that loom largest in his study: Lupus, Ermenric, Alcuin, Hrabanus, and John Scottus.

Two of these names–John Scottus and Ermenric–achieve prominence by the accident of Contreni’s argument, as it were. Contreni’s article was first published in the proceedings of a conference devoted to the Carolingian philosopher John Scottus, which explains the relatively high number of references to this important scholar. These references to John Scottus are almost entirely confined to the opening and closing paragraphs of Contreni’s article, however. They belong merely to the frame and not the main picture. We know so little about the where and when of John Scottus that it is almost impossible to connect him with any other known Carolingian intellectual. Ermenric is another matter. A monk originally from the monastery of Ellwangen, he is perhaps most famous for one long and rather eccentric letter. [4] Contreni’s discussion of the letter over several pages of his article is the reason Ermenric’s name has made it into the top five. If we filter out John Scottus and Ermenric we are left with three names:

  1. Lupus (c. 805-862), a monk and later abbot of the monastery of Ferrières in north-central France;
  2. Alcuin (†804), an Anglo-Saxon cleric, and one of the most famous and important scholars and teachers of the Carolingian age. He became an adviser to Charlemagne, a teacher at his court, and later abbot of the monastery of Tours.
  3. Hrabanus (c.780-856), a monk at, and then abbot of the monastery of Fulda on the eastern edge of the Carolingian Empire. He was later elected to the archbishopric of Mainz.

These three men are, to medievalists, the “usual suspects” when we talk about scholarship and education in the Carolingian Renaissance. Their prominence in the Wordle diagram of Contreni’s article is not surprising.

Diagram 2

Diagram 2

Diagram 2, created using Gephi, an open-source visualization platform, better illustrates emergent networks in Contreni’s piece. It shows more clearly how Lupus, Alcuin and Hrabanus achieved their prominence in the word cloud. Diagram 2 is based purely on the letters used by Contreni to explore relationships between scholars. Each edge in the diagram represents a letter.

Visualizing Contreni’s data in this way is interesting because it suggests relative sizes of network: Lupus enjoys the largest, then Alcuin, then Hrabanus. It is also striking that these three scholars and their networks appear not to intersect with each other, or with anyone else featured in the diagram. A curious result because, as every historian of the early middle ages–and certainly Contreni–knows, Alcuin taught Hrabanus who in turn taught Lupus, yet these particular connections aren’t evidenced in the letters selected by Contreni for his article. Instead, when we visualize Contreni’s data, separate egocentric networks emerge around each letter writer. This, I would argue, is typical of the way historians tend to approach early medieval networks. The reality is far more complex.

I will return to the problem of selectivity in text-based network studies later. First, let us consider two important factors that tend to get taken for granted, downplayed, or even overlooked in network studies: the location of the individuals in question, and the dates when they were active.

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