I chose to create a network analysis on Act 3, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. Even though I have read this play multiple times, this network analysis made me notice something different in this specific scene. This entire time I always thought Antigonus was the central character of this scence, but in a way, Perdita is because this scene is revolved around her abandonment. Every conversation is revolved around Perdita, even though she never speaks back (because she is a newborn). Social network analysis has the advantage of revealing interesting connections in text that we may not have noticed to begin with. As Ed fin put it “digital traces of book culture (by which I mean user reviews, ratings and the algorithmic trails that our browsing and purchasing actions leave online) allow us to make claims about relatively large groups of readers and consumers of books, creating opportunities for the ‘distant reading’ of literary fame, but without losing the specificity of individual texts and authors” (Finn, 2). Social network analysis allows us to closely read in a new, digital way than we could before. Futhermore, “network analysis allows us to explore the middle ground between the individual text and the distant reading of thousands of texts, exploring the emerging space of cultural distinction for a particular author’s work at a particular time. It is this combination of specificity (in terms of time and authors) and generality (in the sense that hundreds or thousands of data-points might influence a particular configuration between books) that offers us a window into a changing system of literary prestige, a glimpse at the middle ground where readers and critics make their judgments within constrained horizons” (Finn, 3).
However, there are some disadvantages with social network analysis. Like with all digital works, nothing is ever really guaranteed because computers will compute and gather information that it thinks is important. But just because the computer thinks it is important, does not mean that it is important to our social network analysis. In my opinion, this is the biggest challenge associated with this method of literary analysis. Students can overcome this challenge by using their knowledge of the text to combat what the computer might think is more important. Also, trying to input the data in the system correctly can help combat the issues with wrong imputation.
Network analysis also helps make research for the actual researchers more accessible and easier than having to do everything by hand and with your own knowledge. Having to make connections for an entire book can be tedious and difficult, but with network analysis, connections that would take days or even months to make can be done in a matter of minutes. We want to do network analysis to discover connections that we could not have made on our own. Like Ed Finn mentioned before, network analysis is another way to closely read. It is a new way to research text and study it through the digital realm. It allows us to answer questions concerning main characters and why they are so influential in a novel. It allows us to answer questions about the relationships between characters. It also allows us to answer questions about why the characters appear in certain scenes, while others do not. Network analysis is a new way to learn about a text in the digital humanities.