Interfaces to Data for Historical Social Network Analysis and Research

Starting point

The analysis of relationships between agents is key to understanding and explaining social phenomena. A lack of knowledge about the availability of suitable data, but also of relevant analysis technologies are frequently factors restraining the study of past events. In the last decades, cultural heritage organisations have produced an abundance of machine-readable data: (bibliographic and archival) metadata, full text collections, and sets of authority records contain multitudes of implicit and explicit statements about social relations.


SoNAR (IDH), Interfaces to Data for Historical Social Network Analysis and Research, will examine and evaluate approaches to build and operate an advanced research technology environment supporting Historical Network Analysis and related research. Project partners from various fields – historiography, information visualization, artificial intelligence and computer sciences as well as information science – work on this topic from their respective perspective.

Work packages

  1. Data preparation: creating automated methods of extracting entities and relations from bibliographic and archival metadata, full texts, and authority data → DFKI
  2. Data management: ensuring the data complies with scientific requirements such as reproducibility of results, persistence of statements, and transparency of data provenance → DFKI
  3. Research design: case-study based testing and evaluating of methods of Social Network Analysis with data prepared by promising components of the research technology → HHU
  4. Visualization and interface design: an investigation of approaches to develop innovative concepts for interacting with data and visualizing graphs → FHP
  5. Evaluation and quality assurance: analysing and evaluating the quality of (interim) results of work packages 1–4 → HU
  6. Implementation: developing a concept for building and maintaining an adaptable research technology environment based on the results of work packages 1–5 → SBB

Find more updates on Twitter under #sonaridh.

Project partners

Our mission is to advance the use of human languages by machines and to create and improve IT-solutions that benefit from language use.

  • We conduct advanced research in language technology and provide novel computational techniques for processing text, speech and knowledge.
  • We strive for a deeper understanding of human language and thought, studying the true needs of the end user and the demands of the market.
  • We develop novel and enhanced solutions related to information and knowledge management, content production, and natural communication.

Key areas of activity include text analytics, machine translation, human-robot interaction and digital content creation.

Dr. Georg Rehm, Principal Researcher and DFKI Research Fellow

Elena Leitner, Dipl.-Germ., Research Associate

Melina Plakidis, Research Associate

Dr. Julian Moreno Schneider, Dipl.-Ing., Research Associate

The UCLAB at Fachhochschule Potsdam is an interdisciplinary visualization research group situated between design, computing, and the humanities. Our work revolves around information visualization with a particular focus on the challenges and questions arising from social, cultural, and technological transformations. Our mission is to make sense of comprehensive datasets and complex issues by developing creative and critical approaches to visualization. All our research is collaborative in nature. The lab itself is a collaboration between the Department of Design and the Institute for Urban Futures. At the junction of design teaching and visualization research, we strive to have an impact in both academia and the world of practice.

Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk, Research Professor

Mark-Jan Bludau, M.A., Research Associate

As the only German department on the university level in the field of Library and Information Science, the Berlin School researches and teaches at the intersection between people, information and technology. The Information Retrieval research group of the Berlin School of Library and Information Science focuses particularly on applied research projects in information retrieval evaluation, interactive information retrieval, multilingual retrieval, knowledge organization for improved information organization and search as well as problems of heterogeneity and interoperability of information systems and information structures.

Prof. Vivien Petras, Ph.D., Professor

Hannes Schnaitter, M.A., Research Associate

Sandra Balck, M.A., Research Associate

Josefine Zinck, Student Research Assistant

Sina Menzel, M.A., former Research Associate (July 2019 – August 2020)

Founded in 1661, the Berlin State Library is a centre of national and international research with eminent holdings today. Bibliographic services like the Union Catalogue of Serials and the Kalliope Union Catalog for Archival Holdings are a backbone for customer-related services of libraries, archives, and museums across the country and beyond. With our partners, we design and carry out projects to test innovative technologies and methods for enhancing data-related services continually.

Gerhard Müller, Head of Division (Kalliope Union Catalog)

Clemens Neudecker, Research Adviser

Felix Ostrowski, M.A., Research Associate

Larissa Schmid, M.A., Research Associate

Michael Czolkoss-Hettwer, M.A., Research Associate

David Zellhöfer, Head of Division: Software and Data Management (July 2019 – August 2020)

The Department of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine is an institute dedicated to research and education on a wide spectrum of medical theory and practice. We research and teach the history and ethics of medicine, as well as medical theory and philosophy of science. Our research connects the history of medicine and the life sciences to modern questions about philosophy and medical ethics. By exploring the social and cultural dimensions of medicine, we connect biomedical research to the humanities and social sciences. General themes: Science studies in Medicine, historical network analyses in medicine; public health ethics; mechanization and quantification in medicine; history of diagnostics; social history of medicine; research ethics; stem cell ethics.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heiner Fangerau, Research Professor

Thorsten Halling, M.A., Research Associate

Jasmin Wieloch, Student Research Assistant

PD Dr. Michael Schneider, HHU, Economic History (2nd Use Case)

Dr. Eva Maria Holly, Research Associate

Associated partners

Function: Consulting on Archival Description and Community communication

Dr. Susanne Brockfeld, Head of Department

Function: Consulting on Digital Edition and Access to Data

Dr. Anne Baillot, Professeur des Universités

Function: Consulting on Historical Network Analysis Methodologies

Dr. Marten Düring, Assistant Prof./Sr. Research scientist

Function: Consulting on Archival Description and Data Exchange Approaches

Daniel Pitti, Director (Social Networks and Archival Context Cooperative)

Data sources

A set of diverse data repositories will be utilised to test technologies and to evaluate approaches to collect, prepare, and provide data for Historical Network Analysis and related research:

German National Library

  • Authority File: authority records about persons, corporate bodies and conferences, geographical names, subject headings, and work titles
  • The German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library: rare serials published by German migrants between 1933 to 1945

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berliner Intellektuelle um 1800 (Dr. Anne Baillot, Le Mans)

Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz

  • Kalliope Union Catalog: finding aids and related authority records about archival holdings, in particular personal papers and manuscript collections
  • Historical Newspapers: full text of historical newspapers from the collections of the Berlin State Library
  • Union Catalogue of Serials: metadata about serials and related authority records, e.g., mainly journals and newspapers

University of Virginia Library, Dep. of Social Networks and Archival Context Cooperative

Data will be used only for the project and cannot be provided to 3rd parties.

Project results


Menzel, Sina, Bludau, Mark-Jan, Leitner, Elena, Dörk, Marian, Moreno-Schneider, Julian, Petras, Vivien and Rehm, Georg (to be published 2022). Graph Technologies for the Analysis of Historical Social Networks Using Heterogeneous Data Sources. In Proceedings of Graph Technologies in the Humanities 2019 and 2020. Graph Technologies in the Humanities 2020. Vienna, AU: CEUR Workshop Proceedings.

Bludau, Mark-Jan, Halling, Thorsten, Holly, Eva Maria, Wieloch, Jasmin, Schnaitter, Hannes, Balck, Sandra, Plakidis, Melina, Rehm, Georg, Fangerau, Heiner, & Dörk, Marian. (2022). Was sehe ich? Visualisierungsstrategien für Datentransparenz in der Historischen Netzwerkanalyse. DHd 2022 Kulturen des digitalen Gedächtnisses. 8. Tagung des Verbands "Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum" (DHd 2022), Potsdam.

Balck, Sandra, Menzel, Sina, Petras, Vivien, Schnaitter, Hannes, & Zinck, Josefine. (2022). Fluch und Segen der Visualisierung - Unterschiedliche Zielfunktionen im Forschungsprozess der historischen Netzwerkanalyse. DHd 2022 Kulturen des digitalen Gedächtnisses. 8. Tagung des Verbands "Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum" (DHd 2022), Potsdam.

Bludau, Mark-Jan, Dörk, Marian & Tominski, Christian (2021). Unfolding Edges for Exploring Multivariate Edge Attributes in Graphs. EuroVis 2021 - Posters. URL:

Menzel, Sina, Schnaitter, Hannes, Zinck, Josefine, Petras, Vivien, Neudecker, Clemens, Labusch, Kai, Leitner, Elena and Rehm, Georg (2021). Named Entity Linking mit Wikidata und GND – Das Potenzial handkuratierter und strukturierter Datenquellen für die semantische Anreicherung von Volltexten. Qualität in der Inhaltserschließung, edited by Michael Franke-Maier, Anna Kasprzik, Andreas Ledl and Hans Schürmann, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Saur, pp. 229-258.

Bludau, Mark-Jan, Dörk, Marian, Fangerau, Heiner, Halling, Thorsten, Leitner, Elena, Menzel, Sina, Müller, Gerhard, Petras, Vivien, Rehm, Georg, Neudecker, Clemens, Zellhoefer, David, & Moreno Schneider, Julian. (2020). SoNAR (IDH): Datenschnittstellen für historische Netzwerkanalyse. DHd 2020 Spielräume: Digital Humanities zwischen Modellierung und Interpretation. 7. Tagung des Verbands "Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum" (DHd 2020), Paderborn.

Fangerau, Heiner, Halling, Thorsten, Hansson, Nils (2019). Discovery or Reputation? Jacques Loeb and the Role of Nomination Networks. In: Hansson, Nils, Halling, Thorsten, Fangerau, Heiner (Hg.): Attributing Excellence in Medicine. The History of the Nobel Prize. Clio Medica 98, 97-121