Networks and the Liberal Arts

2:00pm - 3:00pm EDT October 15, 2013

Networks provide educators in the liberal arts tradition with an excellent opportunity to incorporate technology and technical ideas into the arts and humanities curriculum. How can we incorporate networks and network thinking to foster multidisciplinary learning at the undergraduate level? A colleague from Washington & Jefferson College explores this question and demonstrates the exciting role networks can play in liberal education. (Times EDT)

Liberal arts colleges face complicated challenges and pressures in their efforts to educate well-rounded students who can thrive in a world integrated by networks of every conceivable kind. Contrary to recent reports about the decline of arts and humanities in the age of technology, networks and network thinking provide a strong platform for presenting these disciplines to our technically-oriented students. In fact, the field of network science demonstrates that the liberal arts approach to education is more important than ever to our students preparing for the networked age.

As a professor of computing and information studies, Tom Lombardi studies network approaches to the arts and humanities. His research suggests that networks not only effectively communicate ideas in the arts and humanities, but also provide an important component of a liberal education in our time. During this Shared Academics seminar, you will develop an understanding of networks and the role network thinking can play in promoting multidisciplinary liberal arts education.

Recommended Reading

Please review and explore these resources to prepare for active engagement with your fellow seminar participants.

  • Adamic, L. & Glance, N. (March 4, 2005). The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog. Proceedings of the 3rd international workshop on Link discovery ACM (LinkKDD’05).
  • Abbate, J. (1999). Cold War and White Heat: the origins and meanings of packet switching. In The Social Shaping of Technology. 2nd Edition. Eds. D. MacKenzie and J. Wajcman. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Cronon, W. (1998). “Only Connect…” The Goals of a Liberal Education. The American Scholar, 64, 4.
  • Elson, D., Dames, N. & McKeown, K. R. (2010). Extracting Social Networks from Literary Fiction. Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2010).
  • Moretti, F. (2011). Network Theory, Plot Analysis. New Left Review. 68.
  • Padgett, J. & Ansell, C. (1993). Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400-1434. American Journal of Sociology. 98, 6, 1259-1319.
  • Porter, M. A., Mucha, P. J., Newman, M. E. J., & Warmbrand, C. M. (May 17, 2005). A network analysis of committees in the U.S. House of Representatives. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102, 20, pp. 7057-7062.
Seminar Leader

Dr. Thomas Lombardi is an assistant professor of computing and information studies at Washington & Jefferson College, where he teaches networking, data mining, digital humanities, databases, and programming to undergraduates. He also serves as a consulting editor for the project, Digital Mitford: The Mary Russell Mitford Archive. Tom studies networks, multidisciplinary computing and digital humanities, focusing on the role networks can play in the understanding of the arts and humanities. His most recent work analyzes the early images of Saint Francis as a network of saints capturing the complex iconographic traditions of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century art in Italy. Currently, he is helping to organize THATCamp Pittsburgh, an informal gathering of digital humanists focused on disseminating digital humanities ideas and practices.

Event Hashtag

Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on Twitter via this event’s hashtag: #NITLE


Those interested in incorporating networks and network thinking to foster multidisciplinary learning should attend this seminar. Attendance by institutional teams is encouraged; individuals are also welcome to participate.

Please register online by Friday, October 11. Participation in NITLE Shared Academics is open to all active member institutions of the NITLE Network as a benefit of membership and as space allows. No additional registration fee applies.


For more information about this event, please contact Georgianne Hewett at

NITLE Shared AcademicsTM models a new approach to liberal education – made possible through strategic collaboration, driven by shared knowledge, and supported by emerging technologies. Campuses learn how inter-institutional academic exchange works by actively participating in it, building the knowledge and experience to re-architect liberal education.