by Chuck Rybak/@chuckrybak
A Beginner’s Guide to Gephi and Character Networks
Last fall, inspired by Franco Moretti’s must-read pamphlet over at the Stanford Literary Lab, I decided to turn my students loose on character-network assignments created in Gephi: a free, open-source visualization tool. As with most technology I was initially hesitant, fearing that curricular objectives would be sacrificed on the altar of technical difficulties, yet positive results put these fears to rest and this assignment has definitely earned another go in my classroom.
How high is the learning curve? If your needs are as basic as mine were, you’ll hit the ground running in Gephi. Free to download and easy to install, Gephi includes an invaluable Quick Start Guide that students can utilize independently (there are also these handy tutorials).
The important thing is that we started small. The first student group to take on this project created a character network for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a novel compact enough to produce a fairly contained network, as seen in the modest results. In creating this small network, students tracked only the type and number of character interactions, which were then represented as nodes with weighted edges in the Gephi visualization.
What the class saw in the Jekyll and Hyde visualization did not expand much beyond what we gleaned from reading the book, but prompted us to think about the questions we ask of texts and how to frame those questions in order to create more interpretive, informative, and useable networks. For example, the group that worked on Dr. Jekyll felt they might gain more meaningful results by reconfiguring their data to reflect indoor versus outdoor interactions in the novel, an adjustment that is easy to handle in Gephi’s user-friendly interface. Continue reading DH Toe Dip: Character Networks in Gephi” href=”http://twitter.com/share?via=%40ChuckRybak&count=horizontal&related=&lang=en&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sadiron.com%2Fdh-toe-dip-character-networks-in-gephi%2F&text=%3Cspan%20class%3D%22caps%22%3EDH%3C%2Fspan%3E%20Toe%20Dip%3A%20Character%20Networks%20in%C2%A0Gephi” >Tweet