Prosopography, the identification and disambiguation of name instances and the study of the interactions and life histories of the people involved, is at the core of many humanities research agendas. Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS) is a digital tool kit for the disambiguation of namesakes in text corpora, computation of social network metrics, and generation of interactive visualizations of those networks. Originally developed for use with an Uruk text corpus from the Hellenistic period (331-46 BCE), BPS is currently undergoing development work to extend its features and generalize its functionality for use with a variety of corpora with the support of a Digital Humanities Implementation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thanks to a Research Seminar Grant from the Social Science Matrix, BPS will continue exploring the contours of digital prosopographical work through a new seminar series during the 2015 - 2016 academic year
These seminars will build on last fall’s Prospecting Seminars (also supported by Matrix), which brought the BPS development team into conversation with a variety of on-and off-campus projects in the field. Laurie Pearce, BPS co-director, noted that the seminars served as an ideal way to both build community and assess what areas BPS development work should focus on. For example, Adam Anderson, a PhD candidate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at Harvard University at The Old Assyrian Social Network 1950-1750 BCE, shared his work with the popular open source network visualization tool, Gephi. He described the ways in which network visualization generated new research questions. However, he also highlighted the limitations of the tool when dealing with prosopographical problems. Other seminar participants included affiliates from the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, the SNAC project, the Perseids Project, Trismegistos, and the Coptic Scriptorium.
Explore Laurie’s blog on last semester’s seminars and the NEH Digital Implementation Grant announcement for more information about BPS’ in-development features. If you would like further information about the content and schedule of the seminars, please contact Laurie Pearce.