Circles of Confidence in Correspondence

Modeling Confidentiality and Secrecy in Knowledge Exchange Networks of Letters and Drawings in the Early Modern Period

in Nuncius
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Science in the early modern world depended on openness in scholarly communication. On the other hand, a web of commercial, political, and religious conflicts required broad measures of secrecy and confidentiality; similar measures were integral to scholarly rivalries and plagiarism. This paper analyzes confidentiality and secrecy in intellectual and technological knowledge exchange via letters and drawings. We argue that existing approaches to understanding knowledge exchange in early modern Europe – which focus on the Republic of Letters as a unified entity of corresponding scholars – can be improved upon by analyzing multilayered networks of communication. We describe a data model to analyze circles of confidence and cultures of secrecy in intellectual and technological knowledge exchanges. Finally, we discuss the outcomes of a first experiment focusing on the question of how personal and professional/official relationships interact with confidentiality and secrecy, based on a case study of the correspondence of Hugo Grotius.

Circles of Confidence in Correspondence

Modeling Confidentiality and Secrecy in Knowledge Exchange Networks of Letters and Drawings in the Early Modern Period

in Nuncius




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    Figure 1

    Bartolomeo Campi, design for the citadel of Antwerp with contract, 1572 (detail)Antwerp (Belgium) Stadsarchief [City Archives] 12 # 10774

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    Figure 2

    Attributes of nodes and edges expressing the roles of individuals and the nature of the relationships between them in the exchange of intellectual and technological knowledge

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    Figure 3

    Expected properties of the structures of intellectual and technological networks

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    Figure 4

    Ego network of Hugo Grotius with his 69 most frequent correspondents. Red nodes are professional respondents, yellow nodes are personal respondents. Orange nodes belong to both networks. The distance of a node from the centre (Grotius) and the thickness of the edge (edge weight) both represent the degree of reciprocity.


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