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Lea VanderVelde and Social Networking in the Frontier's Global Business: The Fur Trade / A Palladio Open Design Case Study

Lea VanderVelde is the principal investigator for The Law of the Antebellum Frontier project at CESTA, within the Stanford Spatial History Lab. In this capacity she has also been exploring ways to use Palladio in her research, and in turn has been helping Humanities + Design to think about the development of Palladio.

#Project Overview The Law of the Antebellum Frontier

This project concerns the legal and economic mechanisms at work on the American frontier in the early 1800s. Understanding these mechanisms reflects upon how empires expand and how American expansion into the Ohio and Mississippi river basins shaped American identity and the constitutional amendments after the Civil War. The project uses GIS mapping, geolocation, social network modeling and text mining to examine large amounts of very old texts in the antebellum frontier.

Learn more about this CESTA Spatial History Project

#Palladio-Specific Components Social Networking in the Frontier’s Global Business: The Fur Trade

Professor Vandervelde has been using Palladio to explore and visualize a rich correspondence set generated by the American Fur Trade Company, with the aim of mapping and analyzing flows of communication, money, and power in the frontier.

VanderVelde’s engagement with Palladio has influenced the way she is approaching her research strategies for this material. With Palladio’s visualization and filtering functions she will be able to see both the huge reach and key hotspots within the vast fur-trading network, while also being abe to consider how this commercial endeavor worked hand in hand with the expansion of the American frontier.

Yet, VanderVelde has also stressed in her discussions with us that she is keen not to lose sight of the individual relationships that made up this immense and complex enterprise at both the commercial and government levels. To this end, she will map out the many back-and-forth connections between business and government officials (especially between New York and Washington), while also highlighting how information flowed within the nation’s capital itself, as officials wrote to each other and set policy based on communications with the American Fur Trade Company.

The project becomes even more complex when we consider that these communications often involved discussion of locations other than those where letters were sent or received (ie. New Yorkers and Washingtonians discussing activities in Detroit), and that one could also produce visualizations connecting all of these locations.

Palladio’s network graph view will help her research in this capacity, as she can draw out the individual human connections, especially those within Washington. Palladio’s facet filters, for instance, will allow her to focus in on the specific connections of her choosing, which in turn means that she will be thinking about how to extract as much pertinent information out of her sources in order to provide a rich array of filterable metadata.

Professor VanderVelde and Humanities+Design will be working together in the near future towards creating an interactive project, in which specific instances of her data as visualized in Palladio would reside permanently within an online publication that Professor VanderVelde will produce. Visitors to this publication/site will be able to manipulate the data (using facet, timeline filters etc.) within a Palladio interface to engage with this research interactively.