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Berkeley Prosopography Services seminar through UCB’s Social Science Matrix

Laurie Pearce and Patrick Schmitz of the Berkeley Prosopography Services project will team up to lead a Fall 2014 seminar through the UC Berkeley Social Science Matrix. The seminar will bring together researchers from multiple disciplines who work with historical social networks or whose theoretical work contributes to understanding how historical social networks are formed and revealed.

Prosopography is the practice of identifying individuals mentioned in texts and setting them in their social contexts: families, actors in commercial transactions, social groups, etc. Prosopography is encountered in many humanities research agendas because its fundamental task is the extraction and identification of persons from records from all areas of human endeavor; and the practice intersects with social science in that its goal is the reconstruction of social contexts and networks.

Berkeley Prosopography Services (BPS) provides a new set of tools for prosopography in support of research. BPS is based upon re-usable infrastructure, supporting generalized web services for corpus management, social network analysis, and visualization. Professor Niek Veldhuis of Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department describes how BPS supports prosopographical research in the first several minutes of a video sampler from a September 2010 meeting sponsored by the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities.

BPS was developed with a focus on a corpus of cuneiform tablets written in Babylonian, but the Social Sciences Matrix seminar will invite researchers from a broader range of disciplines, exploring the applicability of BPS tools, techniques, and models to additional areas of inquiry.

Pearce, of UC Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department, is Project Director of Berkeley Prosopography Services. Schmitz is Associate Director of Research IT and is the BPS architect and technical lead. BPS originated in the context of Project Bamboo, which explored cyberinfrastructure for arts and humanities research; BPS development has been supported by an NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant.

The Social Science Matrix “offers a collaborative environment designed to promote new interdisciplinary research questions and to incubate creative new transdisciplinary research programs.” The program aims to “adapt, redeploy, and expand Berkeley’s existing research assets to better address the increasingly rapid pace of innovation in research design and to foster the increasingly cross-disciplinary skill sets required to produce cutting-edge multi-methodological social science.