Melvin Wevers, Jan Kostkan, & Kristoffer Nielbo

In his seminal work Logics of History, William Sewell Jr. draws on the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins when he describes events as ``transformations of structure, and structure [as] the cumulative outcome of past events.’’. We rely on events to structure the world around us, as individuals and as societies. Rather than focusing on bounding effects in time, Wagner-Pacifici describes how form and flow of events, i.e. the way an event unfolds informs us about how an event interacts with existing structures.

This project focuses on the development and application of the EDDe (Embed, Detect, and Describe) framework, that is, an information-theoretical approach to (historical) event detection and characterization in noisy and complex sociocultural data. This approach is based on a fundamental theorem of chaos theory, the embedding theorem, which allows us to approximate the dynamics of a large-scale social system. Rather than measuring cultural expressions through word counts over time, we approach society as a complex system with a multitude of states, which switch between attractors, i.e. a value or set of values toward which variables in a dynamical system tend to evolve. Some of these attractors may be associated with dynamics of cultural information and captured in low-dimensional indicator variables. In our case, these simple indicator variables are expressed through surprise in the textual content of front pages in news media.

Our approach to events is fundamentally psychological, i.e. we study how we have experienced events rather than attempting to formalize the ontology of events. We focus on two methods related to the study of events in complex sociocultural data: event detection and event characterization.


  • Wevers, Melvin, Jan Kostkan, and Kristoffer L. Nielbo. 2021. “Event Flow-How Events Shaped the Flow of the News.” Proceedings Http://Ceur-Ws. Org ISSN 1613: 0073.