Graph Technologies in the Digital Humanities

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Date(s) - 18/01/2019 - 19/01/2019
All Day

Zadal: Boris Lehečka

Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz


Graph Technologies in the Digital Humanities: Modelling, Access, Comparison


Two day international exploratory conference organized by the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur in Mainz, 18–19 January 2019.

(Call for papers: Proposals (between 300 and 500 words, excluding bibliographic references) should be
submitted to by 15 October 2018.)

Although graph models as a computing technology are several decades old, it is only through advancement of generally available computing capacity in the last few years that the application of graph models has become feasible for many humanities projects. As a result we are now seeing a widespread exploration of their potential in the humanities: graphs are being used to express social networks, correspondence networks, text variation, textual traditions, prosopographical data, and so forth. Furthermore, they increasingly complement relational or XML-based research data repositories. The exploratory state of graph application in the humanities is marked by a great variety of modelling approaches and various understandings of graphs as data and information structures. These different modelling approaches are to be presented and discussed at the conference as a first step towards conceivable harmonisation.

The purpose of this conference is to cast a wide net, soliciting contributions that represent the many applications that humanities researchers are currently finding for graphs. While keeping the rich variation in modeling approaches and applications in the foreground, we aim at the same time to explore the possibility of generalizing data structures for different application domains. The conference will thus focus both on celebrating a multitude of creative approaches and on identifying common ground for community-driven development of humanities-specific graph models.

Key topics of the conference include:

  1. Flexibility versus Interoperability
    Graphs are versatile structures able to express highly specific data, information, and interpretation. This facilitates humanities research, marked as it is by heterogeneous data, situated interpretation, complex research questions, and project-specific ephemeral research design. At the same time research institutions, data repositories, research infrastructures, and digital archives require standardization of data and interoperability of tools to facilitate their sustainability and reuse. Are these two features fundamentally at odds with each other, or can they be different sides of the same coin?
  2. Generalization
    Closely related to the first key topic is the question of modelling in graph structures and possibilities of generalization. Can we define generic terms, concepts, and structures  from which discipline-specific annotation systems can then be developed? What does a minimally-sustainable humanities-oriented generic graph data structure look like, and is it possible with such a structure to support the highly specific semantics required by most humanities research?
  3. Approaches to Querying and Access
    To support different research strategies it is paramount that interoperable research data repositories support adaptable query and information retrieval approaches. Several graph-oriented query languages exist (e.g. GraphQL, OpenCypher, Gremlin, SPARQL), but what requirements should be set for a graph query language geared especially towards humanities research data and questions? What can such strategies look like? Are there opportunities to find interdisciplinary approaches here?

We welcome proposals for theoretical papers that engage substantially with any of these key topics, as well as for practice-based papers that describe the practical application of graph technologies to humanities research work to these topics and/or argue practical engineering solutions and approaches to these key questions or related topics such as:

  • Graph-based data models, theoretical and practical explorations
  • Applications of graph technologies in the humanities
  • Text-as-Graph (TAG)
  • Solutions for query and comparison of different graph models
  • Strategies for, or demonstration of, various kinds of (computational) access to humanities data and information represented as graphs
  • Graph representation of specific networks of persons, objects, and information relating to humanities research questions
  • Interacting with graphs and graph interaction design
  • Graphs as a solution for information and data annotation in the humanities
  • Graphs as models for representation of provenance and transmission of information
  • Graphs as models for historical data and information, above and beyond social network analysis
  • Engineering solutions to analysis, traversal, querying graph structure data in specific humanities research contexts
  • The comparison and interpretation of graphs, subgraphs, and traversals

Proposals (between 300 and 500 words, excluding bibliographic references) should be submitted to by 15 October 2018. Abstracts may be submitted in English or German. Notification of acceptance or rejection will be sent out on 25 November 2018. Authors of successful submissions will be allotted 20 minutes for their presentations, as well as a few minutes for discussion thereafter.

A keynote by Prof. Dr. Thomas Stäcker, Director of the State and University Library in Darmstadt, will be presented at the conference.

The organizers of the conference are seeking funding to support travel costs for the presenters of each accepted paper (one bursary per paper).

Presented papers will be published on line at the very least, however the program committee intends to publish selected papers in a suitable peer reviewed publication.

Program Committee:

Prof. Dr. Tara Andrews (University of Vienna)
Dr. Andreas Kuczera (Academy of Science and Literature, Mainz/Gießen)
Dr. Thomas Efer (University of Leipzig)
Franziska Diehr (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin)
Dr. Elena Spadini (University of Lausanne)
Drs. Joris van Zundert (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, Amsterdam)