Integrating biographical data in large-scale research resources: Current and future directions

Document Type

Book Chapter


New Academic Press


School of Arts and Humanities




Arthur, P. (2017). Integrating biographical data in large-scale research resources: Current and future directions. In A. Z. Bernád, C. Gruber, & K. Maximilian (Eds.) Europa baut auf Biographien: Aspekte, Bausteine, Normen und Standards für eine europäische Biographik, (pp. 171-180). Wein, Österreich: New Academic Press. Available here

Please note: This chapter is in a book in the German language


The study of biography is transforming in the digital era. Central to these developments is the new value of aggregated biographical data for understanding wider social trends and phenomena. Lives may be linked through multiple connections such as family, work, association, physical location, or shared experience or history. Yet, until recently, the extent and scale of such interconnections has been difficult to assess and comprehend. The power of digital media and computing for analysis and visualisation of large and complex datasets is now enabling the rich connections existing between individuals and within collectives to become visible and known. Seeing these connections has resulted in a relational turn in biography. The network has become a dominant metaphor for and means of understanding biography today, which was not always the case. In the most traditional sense, biography referred to accounts of individuals’ experiences, which were not contextualised directly in terms of the societies and wider social currents in which the subjects lived. As a writing practice, biography was often reserved for elevating the lives of the famous or significant in society. Doing so effectively removed them from the masses; biography singled them out of their networks and gave them independent and special historical status...

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