Instructions for people interested in the Six Degrees Networking Women event, or generally interested in adding women to the network, are available here.
Introductory Video/How to Navgiate the Site
Have you ever wanted to know who knew whom in early modern Britain? Maybe you’re a student curious about the English Reformation, or Elizabethan theater. Maybe you’re an amateur British history buff fascinated by Britain’s civil wars or the Royal Society. Or maybe you’re a scholar following your own research trail.
I’m Chris Warren, co-founder of the Six Degrees of Francis Bacon project, which is a collaborative reconstruction of the social network of early modern Britain between 1500 and 1700. When I was in graduate school, I was creating network maps by hand. Now, new technologies and participatory communities are making it possible to reconstruct early modern networks at unprecedented scales. In this video, I want to give you a quick introduction to our website, which currently includes over 13,000 people and nearly 200,000 relationships, all mined from the gold-standard of British history, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. As you’ll see, it’s a far cry from my grad school notes. And it’s designed to grow even richer over time with the contributions of scholars, students, and citizen humanists like you.
Let me show you a few of the basics of how to explore, query, and contribute to the site.
First, visualization. The initial view is a broad overview. The name you searched for is bigger than all the others, and it is labelled. You can see other names by moving your mouse over nodes. By default, Six Degrees shows two degrees of separation: think friends, and friends of friends. You can tell the difference between 1st and 2nd degree relationships because the 1st degree relationships are brightly colored; the 2nd degree relationships are grey.
Now let’s zoom in. There are two ways to do so. You can use your mouse's scroll wheel or laptop trackpad, or you can go to the upper right hand corner and click the magnifying glass with a plus sign. Clicking and holding allows you to drag areas of interest to the center. Once you’ve done so, you can see just the 1st degree relationships of the node you searched for by clicking on it. A single click off the node will bring you back to the wider 2-degree view.
Let's select the node again. Colors of nodes indicate known connections at or above the present confidence threshold. A legend can be found by clicking the paint drop on the right hand side. The most prominent nodes—the ones with the most connections and the names even non-experts recognize—appear in dark blue, while people who have fewer connections and appear in red.
The sidebar is one of two other main areas of interaction. The sidebar serves several functions, but for now I want to focus on the Search and Person tabs. The Person tab is where you see some basic information when you select a node. This is where you’ll see birth and death dates, historical significance, known groups to which the person belonged, and direct links to ODNB bios, which open in new windows. You also have quick links to places where you can flesh out relationships and group memberships.
Searching can be done in several ways. The most basic search is a network search. Typing a name, like John Milton, prompts an autocomplete function bringing up possible names. Below the name field is the Relationship Confidence Slider. Initial confidences have been generated with statistical analysis of the ODNB; they'll rise and fall over time with user input—one of many reasons to contribute to Six Degrees. The default confidence is set to 60%, meaning you’ll see likely to certain relationships. You can change it on the slider. A lower confidence setting will give you less definitive information but more suggestive possibilities. I think of the confidence slider as a kind of possibility machine. One thing to keep in mind is that things can get messy very quickly, so we limit the visualizations to 100 relationships. This means that searching, say, for a very prominent person at a low confidence estimate may require showing you a list of data rather than an network hairball.
Scholars often wonder about mutual acquaintances, and a shared network search can show you those. A shared network search for two figures rarely considered together—say, Milton and Newton—shows you that their networks intersect considerably. A lower confidence threshold opens even more possible shared connections. As users flesh out group memberships, the group and shared groups searches will become more useful. We’ll be able to see, for example, all members of the Virginia Company or everyone tagged as a Parliamentarian. A shared group search could return everyone who was both a member of the Virginia Company and a Parliamentarian.
Lastly, I want to turn to the header bar. The first thing you’ll want to do is to create an account. Important features like contributing and downloading data are only available if you’ve signed in. The "View Records” dropdown lets you explore data in list form and offers further ways to make contributions. You can get help, check out our blog, and give us feedback through the provided links. All contributions are checked by community members who’ve already made valuable contributions. These "Curators" can go to the Dashboard to see unapproved contributions and see the nodes and relationships currently generating activity.
Okay, so that's it. What now? Why not create an account and start by searching for someone who lived in Britain between 1500 and 1700. Then, see what you can add.
How To Add People and Relationships
Hi everyone, Chris Warren here. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to add people and connections to the Six Degrees database. The example I’m going to use is Robina Cromwell, youngest sister of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell and, beginning in 1656, spouse of the natural philosopher and theologian John Wilkins. She was an important link between the worlds of seventeenth-century science and politics, but because she went by at least three different names in the period, she’s least likely to have been identified in Six Degrees’ initial stages.
Let’s start by looking at Wilkins’ network. We see many of Wilkins Royal Society connections, but Robina Cromwell doesn’t appear here, which makes we wonder whether she’s in the database at all. To confirm she isn’t, let’s go to “View Record”, then “People.” A search for Robina Cromwell shows no existing match. Nor do searches for her two married names, Robina French and Robina Wilkins. So let’s “Add a person to SDFB.”
Some minimum information we’ll need to gather beforehand are her various names, her gender, approximate birth year, and approximate death year. When we add her relationship to Wilkins, we’ll need to know an approximate start date, an end date, and be able to give a citation or justification.
Ok, so let’s add Robina Cromwell to the database and make sure everyone knows that she was married to John Wilkins. We can add Robina Cromwell’s relationship to Wilkins in several ways. For now, let’s “View" her existing relationships, click the button for "New Relationship," and add what we know.
Once all this information is verified by a curator, users of Six Degrees will have a richer sense of who knew whom in early modern Britain.