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Social network analysis and narrative structures: measuring communication and influence in a Medieval source for the Kingdom of Sicily

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/09/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Intersticios Sociales
Volume14
Number of pages29
Pages (from-to)125-153
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article presents a methodological reflection and the results of a research focus that I have applied to understand the social and political processes present in a textual source. The central issue under study was the interaction among social actors as narrated in a historical text. I anticipated that a relational approach could contribute to understanding narratives and their historical utility. The two main questions that oriented my research were: 1) how can one extract relational data and construct networks that represent the information contained in a narrative source?; and, 2) what do the networks so constructed tell us about the meaning and implications of the social space present in the message? In order to focus on the information on social and political processes embedded in the text, I “translated” a rhetorical report into a relational dataset. The first step in this process required “translating” a textual structure into a sociological construct that I call the socio-relational dataset. The narrative datasets provided a series of narrative socio-matrixes that could be explored using the tools of network analysis. Of these tools, the application and interpretation of centrality measures turned out to be one of the most fruitful approaches for understanding the social dimensions of the text, while measures of centrality and prestige proved useful when exploring the narrative interactions of communication and social influence. This study attempts to prove that a relational approach makes it possible to bridge the gap between cognitive and structural perspectives, and so advance towards an understanding of the social images found ‘between the lines’ of a textual source.