Graphing the History of Philosophy
Via Simon Raper:
To cut a long story very short I’ve extracted the information in the influenced by section for every philosopher on Wikipedia and used it to construct a network which I’ve then visualised using gephi.
It’s an easy process to repeat. It could be done for any area within Wikipedia where the information forms a network…
…Each philosopher is a node in the network and the lines between them (or edges in the terminology of graph theory) represents lines of influence. The node and text are sized according to the number of connections. The algorithm that visualises the graph also tends to put the better connected nodes in the centre of the diagram so we the most influential philosophers, in large text, clustered in the centre. It all seems about right with the major figures in the western philosophical tradition taking the centre stage. (I need to also add the direction of influence with a arrow head – something I’ve not got round to yet.) A shortcoming however is that this evaluation only takes into account direct lines of influence. Indirect influence via another person in the network does not enter into it. This probably explains why Descartes is smaller than you’d think.
Read through if you’re interested in how this was done. Raper links to resources for SPARQL, a language for querying the semantic Web, and various posts for extracting information from Wikipedia.
Image: detail from Graphing the History of Philosophy by Simon Raper. Drunks&Lampposts.