Social Networks Being Used to Determine Myth or HistoryCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: July 25, 2012 01:42PM
Humans are social animals. We live in societies and interact with each other every day for numerous reasons. For someone to create reasonably normal characters for a work of fiction, these characters will also have to be social. Fiction is not reality though, so one would expect these social networks to be different from real ones, right?
As reported by the Institute of Physics, researchers have decided to study the social networks of certain ancient myths and more modern fiction, to see what can be learned. The three myths were Beowulf, the Iliad, and Táin Bó Cuailnge, which some believe each may contain historical facts. The more modern fiction included Richard III, Fellowship of the Ring, and the first of the Harry Potter books.
The researchers identified the characters within the stories and measured their degrees of connectedness to the other characters. Beowulf had 74 of characters identified, Táin had 404, and the Iliad had 716. The social networks of these characters were analyzed using the same tools researchers study Facebook with and it was discovered that there were similarities between the myths and modern social network. The characters generally only interacted with equally popular people, something called assortativity, and when a central character is removed, the entire network will fall apart. This is not the case in modern fiction though as the characters all seem to have independent links to each other, which makes the network strong against targeted attacks. Only Táin Bó Cuailnge failed to show assortativity but the researchers found this is due to six specific characters, which they hypothesize could be amalgams of multiple persons, which would disrupt the analysis.
This study may prove useful in the interpretation of myths because some are known to contain historical fact. The Iliad was long believed to just be a story, but then the ruins of Troy were found where the epic said they would be. Of course this research does not prove any of the myths to be true, but it is something other researchers may want to keep in mind.