The Connected Past - Helsinki 2023

On 12-15 September 2023, the Connected Past community reconvened for an in-person conference focusing on Digital Methods for Studying Networks and Complexity in the Humanities in the heart of Helsinki.

Founded in 2011 by Tom Brughmans, Anna Collar, and Fiona Coward, The Connected Past community has played an important role in fostering interdisciplinary discourse on critical network and complexity approaches in archaeology and history. We both attended several Connected Past events and always felt these conferences stood out from the crowd - not only in the attention they gave to network perspectives and relational data, but also in fostering community amongst researchers in the field through talks, workshops, and informal discussions. We knew that this year was the perfect opportunity to bring the Connected Past to Helsinki.

Network science and complexity studies have grown to become integral parts of many research projects conducted under the CoE in Ancient Near Eastern Empires (ANEE). Since its members represent various archaeological, historical and digital humanities fields, the Center and University of Helsinki was an ideal place to host the Connected Past. The goal of our theme this year “Digital Methods for Studying Networks and Complexity in the Humanities” aimed at bridging the three research teams of ANEE - focusing on digital approaches like network analysis and language technology, on social scientific models, and on archaeological methods.

This year's Connected Past started with a one and a half day workshop (September 12-13), which focused on providing an introduction to network research for studying the human past, and practical tutorials in network analysis in R and Visone. Workshop participants had the opportunity to learn and practice using sample data, but also troubleshoot and obtain valuable feedback on their own datasets.

The first session of talks on September 13 was preceded by opening remarks delivered by Saana Svärd, director of ANEE, who introduced ANEE and spoke of the importance of collaboration and interdisciplinary practices in the humanities.

Later that evening (September 13), the University of Helsinki hosted our opening night reception in the Agora of the Main Building, with opening remarks delivered by Dean Pirjo Hiidenmaa.

The two and a half conference days (September 13-15) were filled with a range of inspiring talks and posters from scholars across Finland, North America, Europe, and the UK, and equally well attended by delegates from across the world. The talks and posters presented this year likewise demonstrated the wide reach and relevance of network analysis and computational methods for archaeology and history.

We were likewise thrilled to be able to host Prof. Andrew Bevan (University College London, UK) as our Keynote Speaker for this years’ event.

We would like to thank all participants and presenters for their contributions to engaging conversations that helped foster a sense of community and belonging for the duration of the event. At least from our perspective, the steady rise in the noise level observed during breaks and evening gatherings signaled that new ties were formed and old ones strengthened between conference delegates. We would also like to stress that the success of the event is primarily thanks to the wonderful delegates and attendees, so we extend a big Thank You to all!

We would also like to express our gratitude to the following sponsors that made the event possible: ANEE and ANEE Director Saana Svärd, the University of Helsinki, Dean Pirjo Hiidenmaa, as well as conference and workshop assistants Taru Auranne, Matteo Mazzamurro, Arttu Malkamäki, Päivi Tauriainen, Sauli Pietarinen, and Caro Liikanen.

We hope to see you next year, in… Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada!

The 2023 Connected Past Organizing Committee

Paula Gheorghiade, Lena Tambs & Jason Silverman


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