Elijah Meeks to present ORBIS – Modeling Transportation in the Roman World

Leonardo Day @NETSCI 2012 Speakers Selected

We are pleased to announce that the speakers for the Leonardo Day at
NETSCI 2012 have been selected.

The Leonardo e-book on Arts, Humanities and Complex Networks is available at


In the coming days we will be posting their abstracts to this blog


In addition to the three key note speakers:

• Burak Arikan, Artist based in New York and Istanbul, USA/Turkey
• Pedro Cano, Chief Technology Officer, bmat.com, Barcelona, Spain
• Miriah Meyer, Assistant Professor, University of Utah, USA

We are pleased to announce that Elijah Meeks will be presenting his paper:

ORBIS – Modeling Transportation in the Roman World

Meeks is Digital Humanities Specialist, SULAIR: Stanford University
Library and Information Resources

Further Information on his work can be found at


Roger Malina, Co Organiser

ORBIS – Modeling Transportation in the Roman World
Elijah Meeks
Digital Humanities Specialist, SULAIR: Stanford University Library and
Information Resources.

ORBIS is a multimodal network model of the Roman Empire, built by
Walter Scheidel and Elijah Meeks, suitable for exploring historical
transportation patterns based on traditional transportation network
analysis. This paper begins with a brief description about how ORBIS
was envisioned and ultimately came into existence, including a
discussion about network analysis coupled with spatial analysis in
spatial databases such as the PostGIS2 database where the ORBIS data
resides. Of particular interest is the time-enabled and multimodal
nature of the network, along with the variable edge cost based on
duration, length or economic cost (what’s referred to in the parlance
of the model as selecting either the cheapest, fastest or shortest
routes). This allows the user to select different months and vehicles
for travel, as well as other route-based restrictions, and their cost
metric, to develop dynamic centrality measurements of the network
based on time, vehicle and purpose of travel.

The main thrust of this paper is on the use of ORBIS to identify
historical phenomena using geographic network analysis. The
core/periphery structure of the Roman Empire can be demonstrated using
network analysis to identify dynamic distance from administrative
centers. Other World Systems structures are visible, such as the
variation between political/military, prestige good, information and
bulk goods networks. The identification of such structures
statistically will be compared to the representation of such
structures visually using variable distance cartograms developed for
this project by Meeks in the network analysis toolkit Gephi as well as
represented the network cost as a geographic surface, where contours
represent time (isochrone maps) or, as in the case of the attached
figure, expense.

Finally, the suitability of geographic network analysis tools and
methods for non-geospatial networks and the reverse will be touched on
through the demonstration of distance cartograms used in genealogical
and literary networks as well as an exploration of dynamic modularity
within the ORBIS network over time

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