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Social Networking in the Renaissance

It’s hard to imagine Marsilio Ficino, Thomas Wyatt, Christopher Marlowe or George Chapman with a Facebook profile page. In fact I’m rather sure Chapman would eschew the whole idea entirely, Ficino’s status updates would probably take the form of existential quotations, Marlowe would delightfully be “causing drama,” and Wyatt’s relationship status would be mysteriously hidden. Although such musings are silly, and of course our medium of social networking is much different, Italian and English Renaissance scholars indeed formed complex interdisciplinary communities not unlike our own. The literature of this period exhibits evidence of lively political and philosophical debate as well as intense¬†rivalry and close friendship. My own work seeks to tease out some of these conversations embedded in the poetry and drama of the period, and I’d be interested to hear if anyone else is working on intertextual debate, conversation or collaboration.The following article locates the origins of social networking in the Renaissance.

Additionally, Dr. Nathan Stogdill (Sewanee: The University of the South) mentioned to me recently that Chris Warren (Carnegie Mellon) and Dan Shore’s (Georgetown) project, “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon” just received a Google grant to work with a team of statisticians on an algorithm that searches the DNB for social connections among early modern figures and creates Facebook-style profiles for them. The result will be, in Shore’s own words on his home page, “a digital representation of the Early Modern Social Network.” Fun stuff! And thanks to Nathan for the heads up.