25. – 30. November 2018, Dagstuhl-Seminar 18482

Network Visualization in the Humanities


Katy Börner (Indiana University – Bloomington, US)
Oyvind Eide (Universität Köln, DE)
Tamara Mchedlidze (KIT – Karlsruher Institut für Technologie, DE)
Malte Rehbein (Universität Passau, DE)
Gerik Scheuermann (Universität Leipzig, DE)

Auskunft zu diesem Dagstuhl-Seminar erteilt

Dagstuhl Service Team


Dagstuhl Report, Volume 8, Issue 11 Dagstuhl Report
Dagstuhl's Impact: Dokumente verfügbar


Seminar Goals

The application of computer-based methods by scholars of the Humanities has a tradition that goes back to the mid 20th century. Labelled “Digital Humanities” some 15 years ago, it has seen a significant growth since then [1]. An important part of Digital Humanities methodology is to establish data sets [2] based on cultural artefacts such as fiction texts, paintings, musical scores and recordings, and historical sources in all media. This is done in a number of different ways and includes some sort of extraction of data from sources computer assisted analysis and visualization. When this process works well, it supports scholars’ endeavours to answer existing research questions and to generate new insights and novel research questions. A significant part of the data collected can be modeled as networks.

Existing network analysis and visualization techniques have already proven themselves immensely useful in analyzing Digital Humanities data and providing new discoveries [3]. The central goal of research on network visualization for digital humanities scholars is to develop visualization techniques and algorithms that empower scholars to use those effectively as part of their research process and for communicating study results to readers. While network science approaches are widely used in other research areas, the power of a network mindset and approach has not yet been fully exploited within the Humanities.

The seminar aimed to enhance the development of network visualization algorithms and tools centered around humanities research. In particular, its goals were as follows:

  • Interdisciplinary Exchange: to discuss existing network visualization methods and algorithms in perspective of their potential application within the Humanities;
  • Terminology Gap: Bridging the gap in terminology between Digital Humanities on one side and computer scientists in Network Visualization and Graph Drawing on the other side;
  • Data: to discuss Humanities’ data sources and their nature, research questions, use cases, and specific application profiles in perspective of their potential support by network visualisation.
  • Reserch Agenda: Formulation of research agenda on “Network Visualization in the Digital Humanities”. Creation of interdisciplinary teams of researchers that address specific scientific challenges of the agenda;

Seminar Program

The seminar brought together 27 researchers from Network Visualization and Digital Humanities communities. The initial two days of the weeklong event were devoted to bring together the different communities and to develop a mutual understanding. Researchers informed each other about their scholarly background through short, five-minute talks. In addition, there were eight long, 45 minutes, presentations in which digital humanities scholars discussed network and network visualization challenges and opportunities in their field of expertise. This was complemented by surveys on network visualization and successful examples of cooperation between visualization and digital humanities researchers.

During both days the participants were asked to post questions and issues they would like to discuss in the remaining three days of the seminar. After a voting, four research areas most interesting the participant were identified. All four met the guiding principles in that they describe both: highly relevant applications within the Humanities as well as innovative research challenges for Network Visualisation. They are as follows:

  • Complex networks, in particular multivariate, multilayered, and multilevel networks;
  • Linked networks;
  • Temporal networks;
  • Uncertainty, incompleteness, and ambiguity of data.

Four groups were formed to work on those four topics over the remaining three days. There were several opportunities for joint discussions and progress reports across the groups. Summaries of the group discussions can be found in Section 4.

Future Plans

During the seminar the participants decided to proceed with a publication of a manifesto, outlining a research agenda for “network visualisation in the Humanities”. It was also planned to publish an edited volume on specific aspects of the overarching topic, possibly along the four major research areas identified by the seminar. The volume will be submitted as a special issue to “Historical Network Research”, an Open Access Journal.


The feedback provided by the participants in form of a survey collected by Schloss Dagstuhl was highly positive and in most aspects above the average collected over the last 60 seminars. The participants agreed that the seminar inspired new ideas, collaborations, joint publications and brought insight from neighboring fields. There was a number of positive comments by the participants on the structure and organization of the seminar as well as several useful suggestions for the future seminars.


As an organizing committee of the seminar we would like to thank the scientific and administration staff of Schloss Dagstuhl for the excellent support they provided, both in the preparation phase and during the seminar. On behalf of all participants, we would also like to thank Dagstuhl for the high quality facilities provided, for excellent rooms for work and socializing, for the tasty meals, and of course also for the excellent wine cellar. The organizers of the seminar would also like to thank Ray Siemens and Dan Edelstein for their contributions to the initial Dagstuhl proposal. Finally, we thank Christina Gillmann for taking the responsibility for this report.


  1. Kohle und Malte Rehbein (Hg.): Digital Humanities. Eine Einführung. Stuttgart, J.B. Metzler Verlag, S. 3–12.
  2. Schöch, Christof (2013) Big? Smart? Clean? Messy? Data in the Humanities. In: Journal of Digital Humanities 2 (3).
  3. Rehbein, Malte (forthcoming) Historical Network Research, Digital History, and Digital Humanities. In: Marten Düring, Florian Kerschbaumer, Linda von Keyserlingk und Martin Stark (Hg.): The Power of Networks. Prospects of Historical Network Research, Routledge.
Summary text license
  Creative Commons BY 3.0 Unported license
  Katy Börner, Oyvind Eide, Tamara Mchedlidze, Malte Rehbein, and Gerik Scheuermann


  • Computer Graphics / Computer Vision
  • Data Structures / Algorithms / Complexity
  • Networks


  • Digital humanities
  • Network visualization
  • Graph drawing
  • Distant reading
  • Human computer interaction


In der Reihe Dagstuhl Reports werden alle Dagstuhl-Seminare und Dagstuhl-Perspektiven-Workshops dokumentiert. Die Organisatoren stellen zusammen mit dem Collector des Seminars einen Bericht zusammen, der die Beiträge der Autoren zusammenfasst und um eine Zusammenfassung ergänzt.


Download Übersichtsflyer (PDF).

Dagstuhl's Impact

Bitte informieren Sie uns, wenn eine Veröffentlichung ausgehend von Ihrem Seminar entsteht. Derartige Veröffentlichungen werden von uns in der Rubrik Dagstuhl's Impact separat aufgelistet  und im Erdgeschoss der Bibliothek präsentiert.


Es besteht weiterhin die Möglichkeit, eine umfassende Kollektion begutachteter Arbeiten in der Reihe Dagstuhl Follow-Ups zu publizieren.