The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0697  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

From:           Scott Sharplin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 15 Mar 2004 15:43:53 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 15.0662 PieSky: Shakespeare Social Networks
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0662 PieSky: Shakespeare Social Networks

I have been debating with myself over the value of the PieSpy
Shakespeare Social Networks tool. As one who works in electronic text
visualisation, I think it is a worthwhile experiment, in the sense that
it helps us to see the plays in new, unfamiliar ways, and that is always

But can one actually extract useful, concrete information about the
plays with this sort of tool? Hard to say. I watched the Antony and
Cleopatra animation all the way through, admiring the speed with which
the character maps twisted and reorganized themselves. I was trying to
catch some hints of a pattern, but other than some obvious connections
(e.g. Antony and Cleopatra), it mostly looked like a big, tangled web of
names. Then, in the early part of Act Five, a brief but remarkable shape
emerged--a rhizomatic shape with Cleopatra at the centre, and all the
other characters (Romans and Egyptians alike) fanning out from her.

This was a nice bit of visual serendipity. Of course, any scholar worth
her salt would have to tuck back into the text in order to argue the
practical value of this configuration. But perhaps that is where text
visualisation serves us best: not as a substitute for reading (or
watching, or teaching) the play, but as a way to suggest new avenues of
textual research.

Scott Sharplin

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