The Structure of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Over Time, Visualized

Created in 1995, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) has grown to become not just an expansive and trusted collection of expertly-written entries on philosophical subjects, but a model for improving the internet. Now Adam Edwards, a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has created an interactive visualization of the SEP and its growth over time.

Here’s how he explains his project, which he noted in an email is “very much a work in progress”:

The [SEP] is a “dynamic reference work” that has a significant influence in and on academic philosophy. The SEP is also an enormous resource of data about academic philosophy. This project is an attempt to represent the network structure of the SEP, visualize its global properties, and understand the structure of academic philosophy as represented in the SEP.

His visualizations are made possible by the fact that the SEP has been archived four times a year since 1997. In them, the nodes represent individual entries and are sized by their “centrality” and color coded by broad philosophical area.

Screenshots of the SEP in 1998 and 2008 make apparent its remarkable growth.



You can read a description of the project here and explore the graphs from 1998 through 2008 yourself here. Below is a brief video I made exploring the 2008 version.

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