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Visualising the dynamics of character networks


The character network of a given narrative (novel, play, film, graphic novel, etc.) models the structure formed by the relations in its character-system (Woloch, 2003). A relation between two characters symbolises their co-presence in parts of the narrative; the entire set of relations between all characters constitutes a formal model of this character-system and lends itself to display and analysis. For example, Moretti (2011) used network modelling to compare the importance of protagonists from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, while Trilcke et al. (2015) created character networks for 465 German plays and used them to initiate a wider study of German Theatre. Most applications of character network analysis have disregarded temporality, possibly because of its representational complexity. Consequently, all relations in the system are considered as happening at the same time: one cannot distinguish if a given edge symbolises a relation at the start, at the end, or in several parts of the work under study. Furthermore, because temporality is not being accounted for, there is usually no way of relating the network visualisation with the unfolding of the source narrative. While prototypes such as those discussed in Roberts-Smith et al. (2013) offer sophisticate ways of dynamically visualising the text of theatre plays, they do so in a way that is unrelated to character network modelling. Based on these observations, we set out to develop an open source web application which models the character-system of theatre plays as a sequence of network states synchronised with the actual narrative content ( This paper proposes a high-level overview of our application , successively focusing on the underlying structure extraction process, the conception of the graphical interface, and the range of uses envisioned for it. In the conclusion, we evoke the ways in which we intend to develop it and reflect on the potential significance of this development at a more epistemological level.
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hal-01525567 , version 1 (21-05-2017)


  • HAL Id : hal-01525567 , version 1


Aris Xanthos, Isaac Pante, Yannick Rochat, Martin Grandjean. Visualising the dynamics of character networks. Digital Humanities, 2016, Krakow, Poland. pp.417-419. ⟨hal-01525567⟩
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