Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

The Unnecessariness of Voyant

I am one for innovation and efficiency, but I believe that while Voyant completes a task of highlighting and identifying words that are frequently used in the text it does not tell you anything else about the text. It’s innovative in the approach that it has not been done at that magnitude before but finding specific words through most online documents is really simple to do, like Voyant though no other information about the searched word’s relevance to the main theme of the passage is disclosed. I guess what I am having trouble understanding is how it helps us understand and interpret literature better. I don’t think that know the amount of times that descriptive words or nouns are used in a given length of a passage is as important because those highlighted words, although used frequently, say nothing about the way they are being used which can skew an interpretation drastically. -CC


  1. I agree that it does not tell you much about the text because some words could be taken out of context. If I remember correctly, Dr. S said there are more advanced versions of voyant that can compare author’s style. I’m not really sure either where you would actually use voyant at this level.
    -Jillian S.

    • c_castellanos

      September 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Yes there likely is a more advanced way of using Voyant that would maybe help with research, not of the text, but similarities of the text with other readings that may be useful to the user in conducting further research. Other than that Voyant is frustrating to use and I would rather not wait for it to load. -CC

  2. I think knowing the frequency of vocabulary has some use to a researcher of the humanities. Like the sermon ex. that Dr. S mentioned. An application like Voyant can show what are common terms used in the sermons about Lincolns assassination. “What texts mention slavery more or at all?” or “What texts mention freedom more or at all?” and then a researcher can look for a correlation in texts and the people writing them. However, I do agree that Voyant can not do much more than find words.

  3. I completely agree, I would not use this in my daily life. It only labels the frequency of words and I didn’t see much use for it besides that. It is a interesting idea but its not a life changing innovation that will affect me in a direct way.

  4. I agree that it might not tell too much about the text, but I think it can tell us a little bit. For example, by showcasing the words that frequently appear, we can see some recurring themes in the author’s work that correlates with the words (ex. a large amount of words such as priest, chapel, clergy, and repentance would connote religion). But still, other versions of Voyant that are more advanced would probably do more.

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