***** To join INSNA, visit ***** Dear all,

This workshop might be of interest to some member of this list, particularly those living in (or close to) the Netherlands.

Kind regrads,

Vincent Traag

*** Apologies for multiple postings ***

Workshop: Complexity in the Digital Humanities

Date:     7 November

Location: Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Organised by the e-Humanities Group, Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam (
Supported by the KNOWeSCAPE COST action (

Complexity pervades all sciences, and will play a pivotal role in twenty first century science. The fundamental idea is that we cannot understand a subject through its microscopic constituents, but only through their interactions. In recent times, this approach has been ascending in the humanities because of the increasing availability of large amounts of digitised data. These range from large corpora of digitised texts, such as the Google Books corpus to online services such as Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, historical archives are being opened up through digitisation, drawing historians into the world of complexity. These developments offer many new possibilities, but also many computational and conceptional challenges. This workshop will reflect on the role of complexity in the digital humanities, and it will cover a broad range of subjects.

Keynote Speakers:
* Marcel Ausloos is professor emeritus in statistical physics from the University of Liège (Belgium). He has authored over 350 papers in various fields of statistical physics. Over the years, Ausloos applied methods from physics to fields of the social sciences and humanities, ranging from language evolution to financial market crashes.

* Diego Garlaschelli completed his PhD in physics at the University of Siena (Italy) in 2005, after which he held various positions in Siena (Italy), Oxford (UK) and Pisa (Italy). Since 2011 he is assistant professor at the Lorentz Institute for Theoretical Physics in Leiden (NL) and an associate fellow at the CABDyN Complexity Center in Oxford (UK). His research focuses on complex networks, human behaviour and economics.

* Stefan Dormans studied Human Geography at the University of Nijmegen. He obtained his PhD at the Radboud University Nijmegen in 2007, which entailed a narrative analysis of urban tales from two medium-sized Dutch cities. After this, Dormans worked at the Virtual Knowledge Studio for the Humanities and Social Sciences (VKS) and as an Assistant Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen. Currently, he works as Programme Development Officer at the ICR department of the Nijmegen School of Management.

The workshop is open to all who are interested. There is no fee, but seating is limited so your are kindly requested to register in advance by sending a mail to Anja de Haas ([log in to unmask]).

Vincent Traag, KITLV, Leiden & e-Humanities, Amsterdam
Jeanette Haagsma, e-Humanities, Amsterdam

For details and updates, please visit

Preliminary Program
09:45—10:00    Coffee
10:00—10:15    Welcome
10:15—11:00    Keynote: Marcel Ausloos
               Measuring complexity in texts

Abstract: A nonlinear dynamics approach can be used in order to quantify complexity in written texts. As a first step,  a one-dimensional system is examined:  two written texts by one author (L. Carroll) are considered, together with one translation, into an artificial language, i.e. esperanto. They are mapped into time series. Their corresponding shuffled  versions are used for obtaining a ''base line''.  Two different  one-dimensional time series are investigated:  (i) one   based on  word lengths (LTS),  (ii) the other on word frequencies (FTS). It is shown that the generalized Hurst exponent and the  derived  multifractal functions  of the original and translated texts  show marked differences. The original "texts"  have some skewed structure, - in contrast to  a mere parabola for shuffled texts. Moreover, the esperanto text has more extreme values. This suggests cascade model-like, with multiscale  time asymmetric features as finally written texts.  A discussion of the difference and complementarity of mapping into a LTS or FTS is presented.

11:00—12:00    Session 1 – Literature & Music
12:00—13:15    Lunch
13:15—14:00    Keynote: Diego Garlaschelli
               Reconciling long-term cultural diversity and short-term collective social behavior

Abstract: An outstanding open problem is whether collective social phenomena occurring over short timescales can systematically reduce cultural heterogeneity in the long run, and whether offline and online human interactions contribute differently to the process. Theoretical models suggest that short-term collective behavior and long-term cultural diversity are mutually excluding, since they require very different levels of social influence. The latter jointly depends on two factors: the topology of the underlying social network and the overlap between individuals in multidimensional cultural space. However, while the empirical properties of social networks are intensively studied, little is known about the large-scale organization of real societies in cultural space, so that random input specifications are necessarily used in models. Here we use a large dataset to perform a high-dimensional analysis of the scientific beliefs of thousands of Europeans. We find that interopinion correlations determine a nontrivial ultrametric hierarchy of individuals in cultural space. When empirical data are used as inputs in models, ultrametricity has strong and counterintuitive effects. On short timescales, it facilitates a symmetry-breaking phase transition triggering coordinated social behavior. On long timescales, it suppresses cultural convergence by restricting it within disjoint groups. Moreover, ultrametricity implies that these results are surprisingly robust to modifications of the dynamical rules considered. Thus the empirical distribution of individuals in cultural space appears to systematically optimize the coexistence of short-term collective behavior and long-term cultural diversity, which can be realized simultaneously for the same moderate level of mutual influence in a diverse range of online and offline settings.

14:00—15:00    Session 2 – Big Data
15:00—15:15    Coffee
15:15—16:00    Keynote: Stefan Dormans

16:00—16:15    Discussion & closing
16:15—17:00    Drinks
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