Blog Post

HASTAC Scholars and the Geography of Topics

HASTAC Scholars and the Geography of Topics

If you are a HASTAC Scholar of the 2013-2014 Program you probably know the geographic distribution of Scholars and the common interests among your peers. What I explore in this post is the relationship (or lack thereof) between geography and shared interests. To put it simply, I analyzed how topics of interest to HASTAC Scholars relate to the geography of North America – particularly the United States.

First let’s plot the location of 2013-2014 HASTAC Scholars. The following maps show the self-reported location of users in the United States and in the world. As we have commented before, most Scholars are from North America, particularly the United States and Canada, with the remaining Scholars coming from countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The map zoomed in to North America also shows a large concentration of Scholars on the east coast of the United States.


The map gets interesting when we cross common topics of interest with geographic information. The plot below shows that edges and nodes in dark blue are mostly connected by digital humanities topics, while light green mostly connects Scholars interested in topics related to computer sciences and software. You can click here to dynamically zoom about the graph.



I talked to Ruby Sinreich about these plots and we discussed a bunch of interesting traits in the graph. The first thing is that green connections seem to be prevalent in the northwest and east coast of the United States, but not in Texas or California. The second thing is that blue connections seem common everywhere, except for the northwest part of the country. When we dig more into the analysis we find that there are actually only five clusters in the American territory. These are the clusters 3, 7, 15, 20, and 21.

It is very difficult to say what topics exactly are covered by these clusters because they are not linearly calculated from Scholar A to Scholar B. Rather, they take into account the multiple topics Scholars are interested in, and how these topics overlap with other Scholars. Nonetheless, we can reverse-cluster the keywords to see the most common topics in each cluster. Cluster 3 is colored dark red and it consists mostly of social media and literature. Cluster 7 is colored green and these links, which account for the majority of connections in the graph, are created by Scholars interested in digital humanities, media studies, and to a lesser extent pedagogy and technology.

In fact, digital humanities and media studies are responsible for most of the connection across Scholars based on shared interests. And considering the prevalence of these topics across the Scholars interests, it is not surprising that most links are colored green. The last three clusters are not that different. Cluster 15 is colored red and also includes digital humanities and pedagogy, but also history and media studies. Clusters 20 and 21 are colored in different shades of blue and mostly connect Scholars interested in gaming, but also humanities and cultural studies (including postcolonial and gender studies).

So if we translate the clusters and the edges to topics and regions of the United States, we can say that what connects the HASTAC Scholars 2013-2014 coming from the northwest and east coast of the United States is mostly digital humanities and media studies, topics that are not so prevalent in Texas or California, which are states leaning towards core humanities disciplines and areas related to technology, criticism, and gaming. The last conjecture we can make based on this very small sample of Scholars is that unlike most regions of the country, gaming is not as significant a topic for connecting Scholars in the northwest part of the country.

It is important to say that these clusters do not imply the areas are more or less studied in these territories. The sample is decidedly not representative and the correlations we explored between geography and topics are supposed to offer a glimpse to Scholars of what their colleagues are working on, rather than represent the research topics covered in these location.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1243622. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

No comments