Net­work sci­en­tists and researchers in the arts and human­i­ties con­verged at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Monday to kick off an annual con­fer­ence that seeks to expand research in net­work sci­ence and foster new col­lab­o­ra­tions between researchers from across the globe.

The highly inter­dis­ci­pli­nary sci­ence of net­works — which exam­ines com­plex sys­tems and processes that exhibit net­work behavior, from bio­log­ical sys­tems in the body to the shifting net­works formed by social media web­sites — has grown rapidly in the last decade. That growth is due to the rising amount of network-​​relevant data avail­able to researchers, according to Max­i­m­ilian Schich, an art his­to­rian and vis­iting research sci­en­tist at North­eastern University’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research(CCNR).

The CCNR, led by a pio­neer in net­work sci­ence, Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics Albert-​​László Barabási, is con­sid­ered the leading university-​​based center for net­work sci­ence research in the world.

Monday’s Arts | Human­i­ties | Com­plex Net­works sym­po­sium was a satel­lite work­shop of NetSci 2010 — a week­long con­fer­ence being jointly held by North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology. Schich says there was a feeling last year that arts and the human­i­ties were under­rep­re­sented at the con­fer­ence com­pared with other topics such as math­e­matics, physics, biology, and eco­nomics. As a result, orga­nizers wanted to bring arts and the human­i­ties to the fore­front this year with its own full-​​day workshop.

We are striving to expand and foster cross-​​disciplinary research on com­plex net­works, within or with the help of arts and human­i­ties,” Schich said.

This is the coolest ses­sion we’ve done so far at NetSci, and if we start this way, I have very high hopes for the [con­fer­ence],” added Barabási, a co-​​organizer of NetSci 2010.

The sym­po­sium exam­ined research areas such as arche­ology, art his­tory, music, lit­er­a­ture and film. In one pre­sen­ta­tion, researchers charted net­works of words throughout pub­lished works such as “Romeo and Juliet” and the Bible, as well as those based on Google searches. Another pre­sen­ta­tion detailed research ana­lyzing the wide net­work of pho­tographs posted on social media web­sites — which, for instance, could lead to studying pat­terns of how people move through the world based on the cities and land­marks high­lighted in the photos.

The sym­po­sium was co-​​chaired by Isabel Meirelles, asso­ciate pro­fessor in Northeastern’s Depart­ment of Art + Design, and Roger Malina, exec­u­tive editor at Leonardo, an inter­na­tional journal focusing on the appli­ca­tion of sci­ence and tech­nology to the arts and music.

The NetSci con­fer­ence is tra­di­tion­ally divided into two sec­tions. The “school” por­tion, held at North­eastern, offers a series of lec­tures and tuto­rials to intro­duce tools and results on var­ious research areas in net­work sci­ence. The “con­fer­ence” por­tion, held at MIT, focuses on talks pre­senting the latest research in net­work science.

The school por­tion began Monday and con­tinues on Tuesday at Northeastern’s Shillman Hall with a morning dis­cus­sion on “Eco­nomic Net­works” and after­noon dis­cus­sions on “Dynamics on Net­works” and “Bio­log­ical Networks.”

For more infor­ma­tion on the entire NetSci 2010 con­fer­ence, visit http://​netsci2010​.net/​p​r​o​g​r​a​m​.​php

For more infor­ma­tion on the Arts | Human­i­ties | Com­plex Net­works sym­po­sium, visit http://​artshu​man​i​ties​.netsci2010​.net/