Digital Technologies Expo
The methods of network analysis are becoming increasingly relevant to the digital humanities, particularly to the study of literary characters. Several recent studies and presentations have also studied European and American drama and this is possibly due in part due to easily available data. However, we believe that network analysis can be used to interrogate interesting features of Javanese theatre as well. My collaborators and I study Javanese wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), one of the oldest and most respected traditions of Southeast Asia. A typical performance lasts all night but usually focuses on a small episode of the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of Ancient India that provides the narrative material for many traditional theatre forms in Southeast Asia. There are no comprehensive storylines or transcripts available in digital form, so we created our own database by digitizing and annotating the authoritative list of wayang kulit storylines compiled by Purwadi (2009). We used the resulting data to construct a weighted, undirected co-occurence network at the adegan (scene) level. Our network analysis enabled two unprecedented findings: 1) although the percentage of Javanese and Indian characters is comparable, Javanese characters have disproportionately lower degrees and 2) characters with lower degrees are interchangeable in performance, high degree characters are not. Puppeteers often have a limited number of puppets and there are unwritten rules governing which characters can be substituted in case there is a shortage of puppets: the second finding suggests that these rules can be inferred from the network.