The Concept Lab
What laws govern the formation and transformation of concepts, as historical cultural entities? How do some concepts drastically change their structure and scope, while others remain comparatively constant? The Concept Lab aims to answer these broad answers, through an interdisciplinary research agenda that manipulates the digital archive in novel ways. The enquiry has two principal axes: on the one hand, it aims to utilise the unprecedented volume of historical data now available, so as to focus not only on the frequency with which individual concepts appear, but also the complex networks in which they are embedded. On the other, it seeks to develop a working terminology for the different kinds of concept that appear, so as to account for those that mutate in particular ways, or are networked to an unusually large number of related notions. Our eventual goals include the writing of digital code to enable a greater range of conceptual analysis; the publication of a series of working papers to communicate our methodology and findings; and a series of dedicated studies of particular historical concepts.
Ewan Jones is a research associate on the Concept Lab project at CRASSH, in addition to being the Thole Research Fellow at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge.