I will discuss ideas and problems arising from my project, which for a while I have been calling the Hessian Social Network Project (HSNP) or the Republic of Literature. Substantively, this is a study of the German legal intelligentsia in the Enlightenment era, especially in the western part of the Holy Roman Empire around Hesse and Frankfurt. In it, I study the social and textual relationships among some 2,000-3,000 individuals. The goal is to learn how and why people changed civil law in Germany, driving the growth of civil liberties, constitutionalism and rule of law. This project is a social network analysis (SNA) because I seek to do this on a micro/personal level but over a gross aggregate of thousands of people. The method I use is to plot two kinds of information. The first is prosopographical (i.e. biographical) information about lawyers, judges, law professors, regime ministers and people who studied, interpreted, changed or otherwise used law. The second kind of information is about their texts – dissertations, treatises, law codes, edicts, court decisions, old edited documents, etc. The kind of information plotted about texts includes things like title, date and publishing house, but also what the content of the text is and who the different figures involved in its production or reproduction are, such as translator, editor, compiler, pseudonymous author, teacher and student, etc. Taking all of these kinds of personal and textual relationships together lets us plot a large network of interacting elements. In this talk, I will focus on at least two difficult and interesting aspects of this architecture, namely entity nesting and time horizons. Entity nesting of texts means that one text may contain or reproduce another, as in translation, quotation or citation. Entity nesting of people means that, as Mitt Romney put it, corporations are people too. It is necessary to be able to situate people as members of or otherwise connected to corporate groups, which themselves have legal relationships or issue texts. Finally, texts may have long time horizons, meaning that authors can be influenced by, cite or reproduce texts from long in the past. This may mean that we have to think of and represent time in a non-linear way.
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