Call for Papers 2025

Graphs & Networks Conference 2025

12 – 14 February 2025, Mendrisio, Switzerland, hosted by the Università della Svizzera italiana

UPDATE: Deadline extended to 1 September 2025!

Data Biographies

“Data on biographies” and “biographies of data” denote two approaches that bring the notion of biography together with digital methods. The first relates to investigations of human lives enhanced with computer tools. The second extends the established notion of artefact biographies to consider data as part of material culture. We plan to look at both during the 2025 Graphs and Networks conference in order to better understand how they may be complementary or contradictory and in what ways bringing the two together can help us explore data. 

Long before the advent of the computer, scholars in the humanities studied biographies, prosopography, networks, and interactions. Traditional biography became established as a literary genre in ancient times, but as a tool of modern research it remains suspect. It is selective, immediately assuming that its subjects somehow stand out from the rest and labelling some aspects of their lives as more important than others. It poses as representative but scorns the ordinary. It implicitly claims authority by speaking as an apparently detached observer but instead of respect it invites subversion. And many scholars have indeed taken up the invitation and studied the lives of people whom traditional biography has excluded: women and migrants, LGBTQ+ individuals and people of colour, and simply ordinary folk whose common lives upon closer examination become extraordinary. They present us with tangible glimpses of larger events concerning groups and classes, movements and nations seen through the lens of individual lives. 

Nowadays, digital tools substantially aid us in biographical studies both on the level of the individual and the group. But they also lead us to ask new questions: how do we model identity to represent both fluid self-identifications and normative labels that are externally applied to individuals? In what ways do we represent varied individual experiences of the same event? How do we deal with privacy and sensitive data requirements? Where in our datasets can we find the voices of witnesses who are poorly represented in historical and cultural studies? And how can we better accommodate them? These questions confront us not only with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of digital methods, but also with their epistemological dimension, especially when digital methods interact with social and cultural research.

Data is now seen as an artefact, a thing, as well as a reflection of the world or a straightforward object of study. Its materiality and situatedness have been highlighted emphatically by the rich new work produced in the context of digital anthropology. We might thus productively speak of biographies of datasets – their births and deaths, their relationships, their mobility, provenance and creation histories, variations in their value and status, stories of their entanglements with the subjectivities of human agents, and networked interactions between biographies of data and those of other artefacts (and people). Thinking about datasets as artefacts also encourages us to see them as “capta” (Drucker 2011) – as constructed and situated entities that embody bias, and not to take their claim to objectivity for granted. Asking questions about biographies of data is thus the first step in a crucial conversation about the power relations, vested interests and other social conditions in which data emerges.  

We invite you to apply with presentations of research involving graphs and networks in any discipline on the topic of biographies of data as well as biographies of people and things studied with the help of data-driven approaches.

Key topics for this conference may include, among others:

–         Biographical research with graph data, including explorations of tools like network analysis, named entity recognition, geographical mapping as well as other methods and their combinations.

–     Challenges of biographical data: provenance, application of the CARE principles, privacy, right to be forgotten, visibility, data ownership and determination (e.g. in the case of indigenous communities and colonised peoples), the relationships between individual and collective histories, and others.

–         Materiality and situatedness of data: graph approaches exploring data development, workflows, paradata, social and cultural embeddings of data production, economic networks around data, the “thingness” of data and its place in the lives of individuals and communities, the subjectivity of the observer.

–         Digital anthropology, ethnography and prosopography with graphs and networks.

–     Conceptual challenges coming from the data biographies approach, e.g. to the assumptions about status of data, its attribution, curation and ownership.

We welcome in particular contributions that deal with traditionally underrepresented subjects: studies of the colonised and indigenous people, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others. 

There will be no participation fee for this conference.

Formats

We welcome three types of proposals: (1) individual papers; (2) software/tool demonstrations and (3) posters. Abstracts should clearly state the title, name and affiliation of the authors and the presenters. The conference will be held in hybrid mode, but we would request the speakers to present on site, unless significant personal circumstances prevent them from travelling to Mendrisio. Sessions will be recorded and recordings will be made available under the terms of CC BY 4.0 licence unless otherwise requested by the speakers.

  1. Individual papers consist of a 20-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes of discussion. The abstract should be up to 750 words long with a minimum of 3 citations. It should include a description of the following: background – an overview of the topic and the research questions that will be addressed by your paper; methods and data – an overview of the data used and the methods employed in your research; findings – a description of the results of your research. 
  2. Software or tool demonstrations will be presented within a main conference session and will consist of a 15-minute presentation and 5 minutes of discussion. They will also be presented at the demo booths during the poster sessions. Abstracts of 200–500 words should include information about the novelty of the tool, its contribution, state of development and licensing.
  3. A1 posters will be displayed during a poster session. Abstracts should include a description of the following: background – an overview of the topic and the research questions that will be addressed in the poster; methods and data – an overview of the data used and the methods employed in the research; findings – a description of the results of the research.

Abstracts could include a single figure that shows the key results or main argument of the paper, tool, or poster. Figures should be submitted in a format that can be displayed in a standard web browser and should have a minimum resolution of 300 DPI. 

All text and images should be provided under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 licence. If you cannot meet this requirement please provide a justification. 

Please submit paper proposals by following this link:

<Submit your paper here>

Key dates:

01.05.2024 – publication of the CfP

15.07.2024 – deadline for submissions — UPDATE: Deadline Extended to 01.09.2025

30.09.2024 – notification of acceptance / rejection

15.10.2024 – registration opening

15.12.2024 – registration for in-person attendance closing

10.02.2025 – registration for online attendance closing

11-12 February – pre-conference workshops (Geovistory + one other tbc)

 Bibliography

Drucker, Johanna. ‘Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display’. Digital Humanities Quarterly 5, no. 1 (10 March 2011).