Scholarship is a conversation between individuals and across the generations. And this conversation can often be mapped. We can look at who cites who in the scientific literature or we can look at who collaborates with each other. We can also look at annotations, because in this long conversation, scholars can have comments on each others’ work.
This is a particularly appropriate method when it comes to Jewish texts. Many of these texts not only cite each other, but comment upon them, a sort of citation on steroids. For example, there is the Mishnah, part of the Oral Law in Judaism. Each section of Mishnah is in turn commented upon by the Gemara, and together these two things make up the Talmud. And there are medieval rabbis who in turn comment on the Talmud, as well as each other. And so on and so forth. With each text of course referencing and annotating the Bible. Ultimately, classical Jewish literature is one that is steeped in annotation and reference. It is the quintessential network.
Sefaria, is an open source database of Jewish texts and recently, Liz Shayne of UC Santa Barbara attempted to extract the relationships between the texts found there—annotations, allusions, and such—and visualize them.
Unfortunately, Sefaria is very much a work-in-progress, so conclusions are likely to early to be drawn, but here is a quick visualization that Shayne performed of the complete network of more than 100,000 nodes and 87,000 links. (see above)
Here is the meaning of the colors, along with some interpretation:
Click headline to read more and view visualization full screen--
Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc