ND International: Digital Empires: Structured Biographical and Social Network Analysis of Early Chinese Empires

Project Description

PIs: Meng Jiang and Liang Cai

How could the early Chinese empires integrate different regions across a large territory into one unity and impose a collective identity to diverse people who spoke different languages and enjoyed different cultures? In order to explore these questions and find answers, can we trace the social mobility and geographical mobility of all historical actors in our sources? Can we reconstruct various social networks to demonstrate the flow of talent, resources, and power in early Chinese empires? There are many fundamental questions historians ask but lack efficient tools to extract comprehensive information from our sources. The development of computer science, especially AI techniques changes the research landscape of humanities.

People created history. Our proposed big data MATRIX focuses on biographical analysis. For the first time the Digital Empire project provides relational data with structured information on historical figures of early Chinese empires. It addresses the significant lack of prosopography in this field. This database provides three vital functions: comprehensively sort out historical actors according to their shared attributes, visualize social networks, and retrieve the information back to sources. This biographical analysis will revolutionize the questions scholars ask and thereby expand their research horizon. It will help change research paradigms, allowing scholars to move from augments supported by examples to arguments that account for all cases in question. Furthermore, visualization of social networks and common attributes of historical figures will challenge our reading habits, shifting our focus from linear storytelling to multiple narratives.


Research Assistants