Research Topic

Network Science Approaches for the Study of Past Long-Term Social Processes

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About this Research Topic

'Network Science' is a truly interdisciplinary field. After decades of more or less isolated contributions, its popularity exploded almost two decades ago, and today its applications spread across areas such as chemistry, ecology, molecular biology, engineering and, of course, socio-economic sciences. More ...

'Network Science' is a truly interdisciplinary field. After decades of more or less isolated contributions, its popularity exploded almost two decades ago, and today its applications spread across areas such as chemistry, ecology, molecular biology, engineering and, of course, socio-economic sciences. More recently, it has received ever-increasing attention for the study of the past, as demonstrated by the success of initiatives such as The Connected Past or the Historical Network Research Conferences.

As part of this process, several special issues and topical books have been published introducing Network Science to scholars studying Past societies, and addressing challenges particular to the field (e.g. the use of incomplete textual and material sources as proxies of past social interactions). This proposed Research Topic will push this research agenda one step further. Specifically, it aims to address the characteristics of past long-term social dynamics on and of networks, the methodological challenges of this endeavor, and how it can make important contributions to Network Science as a whole.

Social processes like technological innovation, social change and cultural diffusion are some of the most studied phenomena within the Network Science community. However, most studies concern very short time spans (ranging from days up to a few decades), and offer an incomplete view of the long-term processes at play. On the contrary, archaeological and historical case studies (like those to be included in this Research Topic) cover time scales of hundreds or even thousands of years and hold the potential to improve our understanding of long-term processes through Network Science.

Unfortunately these recent efforts have remained almost unnoticed by the Network Science community, since cross-fertilization between archaeologists or historians and network scientists active in other fields have remained rare. This proposed Research Topic will address this lack of visibility and will highlight the importance of studying past long-term social dynamics on and of networks as case studies. In doing so, it will make important methodological contributions to Network Science, archaeology and history.

Target Audience
In addition to scholars in Archaeology and related disciplines who are interested in the application of Network Science methods, this Research Topic will appeal to complexity science experts looking for empirical sources and methods to address evolutionary processes and long-term social phenomena. Notice that both profiles can be found among the editors and contributors to the Research Topic, ensuring a thorough cross-disciplinary diffusion of the volume within the relevant communities.

In particular, we would like to stress that the Research Topic will include a special article commenting on the contributed works, highlighting their potential impact to Network Science in general, and suggesting constructive ways of building on these insights in future cross disciplinary collaboration. This latest article will be written by an expert on Network Science applied to social phenomena, whose main expertise is not in the study of the Human Past. This will allow to capture a qualified, 'fresh' viewpoint and maximize the impact of the Research Topic beyond the community of archaeologists and historians with an interest in network analysis.


Keywords: Network Science, past long-term social phenomena, dynamics on and of networks


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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