Computing the Inquisition: Path towards the Dissident Networks Project (DISSINET) and the ERC Consolidator Grant

26. 10. 2021 o 13:00
This lecture presents an approach to the collection and analysis of structured relational data which we have developed over the last 2.5 years in the Dissident Networks Project (DISSINET).
Our goal has been to devise a data model and environment capable of capturing the detail of inquisitorial records: the persons, groups, events, attitudes and physical objects they describe, the reported social, spatial and temporal relations between them, but also the modality of speech (negation, question, possibility etc.), the chain of information flow in inquisitorial records (e.g. who is reporting what and when, who is inculpating whom), and the different modes of trial interaction and recording. We thus preserve the semantic structure and detail of our sources. The data thus collected then allows us to analyze the social, spatial, and discursive patterns of inquisitorial records, heresy trials, and medieval religious dissent using a variety of computational and quantitative methods, including but not limited to social network analysis, geographic information science, and natural language processing. In addition, our data model and the experience gained from devising it will be of interest well beyond heresy and inquisition research, above all to historians and social scientists keen to explore the possibilities of analysis of structured data while preserving the detail, fuzziness, and the discursive patterns of their sources. The last part of the lecture summarizes our experience with writing up and submitting an ERC grant application.