Introduction to Digital Humanities

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

Author: Luke

Digital Humanities: Disneyland Exhibit Final Project

As the semester wraps up in our class, I worked on a group project with four other students building an online Disneyland exhibit using Omeka and the skills that I learned over the course of my Digital Humanities Fall 2015 class.

We looked at 11 different Disneyland rides and attractions, and we analyzed and showed how they changed and grew over time. Go check it out!

Palladio Visualization Map

My map in Palladio, using the Cushman Collection data, was being very slow and glitchy, and so what I was able to get out of the exercise was basically what Dr. S got through as well before the program wouldn’t let me move or zoom the map any more. Palladio Map

Spatial History and How Where You Are Determines Who You Are (October 26th, 2015)

Spatial history as it exists in the field of Digital Humanity is fascinating. Our first reading, Humanities Gone Spatial, focuses a lot on the concept of spatial history, and how it is used in a very broad context, while our second reading, Zepher Frank’s Spatial History as Scholarly Practice, pinpoints the Richard Pryor’s Peoria Project as an example of  focused spatial history. This smaller scale something that I have spent a lot of time thinking about without knowing the term for it. My freshman year in college I read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, and the stories that she told of how she grew as an artist and how important the context of where she was living at the time and who she was able to interact with because of where she was spatially really got me thinking about my own life. In conjunction with reading her book, I encountered people who lived completely different lives and has completely different backgrounds and experiences that made me question what a “universal experience” is. How even though we all came from such utterly different backgrounds most of the time, somehow we all still ended up at the same university, and after a brief interaction with each other, we will all go back into the work to leave our mark. Yet in this brief time, we are all influencing each other, even if indirectly. We meet each other, have classes, have lunch, interact with each other through sports or the arts, and each little change and meeting changes us if only for a moment. Using mapping to portray spatial history is a really fantastic way to look at an individuals life, as the Peoria Project did with Richard Pryor, because it lets you look at the influences that person made based upon where they were, as well as seeing how they were being influenced by where they were. Looking back at my life, I’ve spent some time mapping out my own journey, and with my location being written to every photo I take on my phone, or every time I log into Facebook, I have had plenty of geographic data to work with. This type of data, incidentally, will make projects like the Peoria Project easier, because they have the location data attached to photos and videos, so you an match where and when a person was somewhere. When I looked back at my own spacial history, I saw my past year, photos of summer and winter break popping up at my home, then pictures of my time here at university cluttering the areas where I took the photos. The precision is amazing too, because I could zoom in or out, to where photos were clustered by city, or to where I could see where on campus I had taken the photo. Some of the photos are incorrectly matched, because of some wonky GPS coordinates, but they were still correct within city and such. Looking back at my own spatial history I see where I spend the most of my time where I am also making the types of memories that I feel need to be preserved through photographs. The clusters where thousands of photos pop up are rather interesting and allow me to take a step back and have just one more thing to be aware of myself in my life.


Spatial History

An example of photos on my phone with location history allowing me to see where photos were taken in proximity to a building I am frequently in on campus.

Perpetua and Felicitas: Counter-Culture in the 3rd Century (October 5th, 2015)

This article from PBS about early Christian martyrs is an interesting one. Within, Professor Wayne A. Meeks describes what is happening with Christianity is a sort of counter-cultural movement. Now as someone who attended Catholic school for eight years, counter-culture was pretty much explained to me as that which goes against the teachings of the church. And that interested me, the perspective shift from Christianity being the counter-culture of its day, to defining counter-culture to me as that which was not them. This is likely some weird thing from my early Catholic school days, but it has always stuck with me. And I found counter-culture to be an intensely interesting subject. Maybe the martyrs did too. I do not know the specific context for this story other than what I read in the article and what I have learned from school, and I always have been bad with historical context, but I think that a lot of these martyr stories are hard to relate to our own personal context. Here in the United States we at least try to have a separation of church and state, the Roman government had no such distinction and thus had rituals embedded into their culture as something that the community does as a whole. I think a big part of historical context that escapes me, and may escape others is that the further back you go in time, individuals and small groups just become numbers that we don’t relate to. Or generalizations of a story. But this story, that of Perpetua and Felicitas (though as a child I was always told it was Felicity), focuses on two individuals and helps to reign that back in for me. It was individuals who were persecuted. Individuals who offered themselves to God by the edge of the sword. Small groups of society being persecuted interacting with other small groups of society that wanted to persecute. I think, that since the Roman government at large did not have a strict policy on the persecution of Christians that it was the small minority that banded together as a group to execute those of another faith, or at least those who did not participate in a same social manner. I think that the outliers on both sides of the story were those well documented because it wasn’t the mundanity of regular culture. Why document the regular everyday happenings of real life if everybody already knows it? The stories of the Christian martyrs, as far as I know, are documented better than the early growth and expansion of Christianity (as well as being part of that growth), and the stories continue to contribute to Christian faith to this day. The importance of their martyrdom, in my eyes, was the counter-culture idea that people believed so strongly in their faith that they would die for it. Again, I do not know the context of the time, but from what it seems like, the Roman community practicing sacrifice could just as easily have taken the same steps that some Christians did and faked their way through the offerings. They could have been weaker in their faith to their gods than the Christian martyrs had in their God. And I believe this is why Christianity drew upon martyrdom as a source of power and not tragedy, it proved their place in the pantheon of religions that existed at the time, and established them as a real participant in humanity’s dialogue with the concept of higher being(s). -Luke Bolle

4.2.7

This image of Perpetua and Felicitas also shows something that wasn’t brought up in the reading: they were also women of color.

Image Source

Is Remixing an Art Form in Itself? (September 28th, 2015)

This blog post is brought to you by PacificNet; PacificNet: Where you’re never sure if the internet is working when you open your laptop.

Focusing mainly on the musings of Melissa Terras’ blog post about re-using digitized content due to my phone not being able to access the pdf of Robert Leopold’s article, I will be looking at the remix and where it stands in the context of art. She talks a lot about the how archival material and how it is presented online for others to use.She also makes many of what seem to be contradictory statements during her post, wanting this and criticizing that. Really I feel like she wants the world and she wants it now.

The first point she addresses is how poor the user interfaces of the platforms they upload their media to are. Flickr is brought up as an example, and I do remember a time when Flickr had a much more user friendly interface, but that was many years ago, and I believe the changes were brought to the website to better monetize the advertisements on the website. This brings up the question, at least to me, where if you are externally hosting your content on another companies domain, then what control do they have over you in how your information is presented when they change their layout to be more or less user friendly? Would you move your entire database somewhere else? Would you make your own? Would you partner up with similar institutions to make a universally searchable database?

In her second point she talks about how the aesthetic of what is available isn’t pleasing to her. So what? I ask. If absolutely nothing except for what was still under copyright was desirable to me, then do I have a right to ask the curators to go out of their way to make it more accessible to me? I think it should be clearer on how to get licensing rights, but so they cherry picked 10 (which is a very buzzfeedy attention grabbing number, along with her titles “10 fabulous 1950s illustrations which we have arranged for you to use under a creative commons license” but I digress) just for you but you didn’t want those ones you wanted the specific ones that you wanted to use. It would all be much simpler if they offered a better way to tackle this problem.

Her third point is on how monetizing product works. She says anything you’re not monetizing, let other people use it. For free or for pay, yet there are plenty of examples of artistic works that don’t do this. This is why out of print books and movies demand such high prices. Scarcity through denial of product. Sure, we have some companies like The Warner Archive Collection which prints VOD disks for anyone who wishes to order them, but companies practicing this are few and far between. And I don’t think that the vast majority of people are losing sleep over not being able to make a proper coffee mug. And to answer this question: “What “access” do you think you are actually providing, if its only of the “look but don’t touch” variety?” A museum. Museum access. Museums are look don’t touch. Its a digital museum collection.

Regarding image quality in her fourth point, maybe the same people who don’t know how to get images online in the first place don’t know how to properly put them online either. Go figure. I don’t think that there are that many super computer savvy museum custodians whose main priority is to make sure that they don’t get paid for their work making it available for free then letting others profit over the remixing of it.

Her last point is on maker privilege, and how much time it takes to remix something into something else that they want. To that I say, why don’t they put that time and long arduous effort into creating their own work or better learning how to cut down production time?

A lot of what she said I found very interesting and intriguing, but I feel as though she presented it in a “me me me” sort of way. A sort of “why aren’t they doing this for me” sort of deal. Many museums have their own staffed talent making remixes of work found in museums that can be purchased online or in their gift shops. A lot of what I observed on etsy were very similar to what I’d see in a gift shop, such as prints:

Fuji Etsy

This is from Etsy

Fuji Museum

This is from the British Museum online gift shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This demand for ease of access to remixers as opposed to a demand of quality for all researchers is an interesting one. It seems to be very focused on personal needs like I want that one, as opposed to a open collective sharing. Plus, if all they do is sell the rights to ten different items, then all we’re gonna end up with are remixes over and over of the same ten things, right?

-Luke Bolle

Ethical Privacy or Share What is Yours, Not What Belongs to Others (September 17th, 2015)

Within David Golumbia’s Crowdforcing article, he goes over many examples and in my opinion, tries overly hard to examine what ‘sharing’ truly is. I found it difficult to make my way through this article because he was unclear, such as when he talked about a “sharing economy” and the effects of Uber and Lyft on the world around them and “parts of the social world that are impacted by their services”. My only idea on what he could mean by that is their effects on companies that offer similar services to them such as taxi cab companies, something I know is a big issue for them right now, but this was never explicitly or clearly stated in the article. He also tried much to hard to use nice big vocabulary words and did not hesitate to invent his own (something else that confused me was that he said he thought an apt name for crowdforcing was as such, but he never explains why. Why is it an apt name? How? It doesn’t force a crowd to do something and it isn’t an individual forcing a crowd?) and even past this he tries to be clever and call people who use and defend Google Glass for xyz “Glassholes” which was just ridiculous to see in an article like this. The attributions of reasons to fit what he is arguing in the Google Glass portion rubbed me the wrong way too, stating that Google Glass failed because we reject the ideals of a corporation when really, there isn’t even correlation and I think a stronger argument can be made that the high cost to purchase the technology was what ultimately killed it, lack of profitability and consumers willing to pay into technology, especially a new one is what has led to the demise of many expensive home gaming consoles, not because the public had any quarrels with what the tech could possibly be used for. A lot of the article focused solely on what if a company (usually for monetary gain) uses your information. So much was discussed about how sharing is related and tied to money, that the other readings for today, from Emory University, offered a breath of fresh air on the subject of sharing and privacy.

The Emory readings were very in depth and knew what they wanted to communicate in a very understandable manner. The presentations of ideas swaying the audience to be a responsible digital citizen. I myself have very little knowledge on copyright laws, something that as an artist will very likely become very important very quickly. The articles and presentations clearly inform as to what is acceptable and offers tools and resources to make it easier on the audience to educate themselves on the subject. I think the issue with ideals like “the nine elements of digital citizenship” is that physical citizenship (as in the physical, not digital world) is so loosely defined, with unset boundaries of morals, rights, and responsibilities, that applying any of the elements digitally first requires application in the real world. I do see people with the physical understanding of these principles who abandon them once they slip into the perceived anonymity of an online persona, but more often than not, I see people who do not posses the qualities of an ethical citizen carrying those traits over into the digital space, at least from my anecdotal perspective.

With both of these writings, I think that something that needs to be examined is the defensive privilege that companies receive: its the self we are trying to keep private but companies are buying and selling our information like packs of trading cards. It is a company like Uber or Lyft that is taking jobs away from cab drivers. It is companies doing wrong by the people. But people are the ones behind the company. The facade that exists that it is a company directly harming others is ridiculous. Someone out there is selling your information and another someone out there is buying it, and a team of someones are using that data to then effect you. A Uber driver or a Lyft driver is just trying to earn money same way a taxi driver is, just in different flavors with slightly different rules. Everyone is just trying to live, get by with a little bit of money however they can earn it (for the most part, most people do have to worry about money and cannot just forget about it) and leaves the morality to the wayside because they need to live. I think that morality has a tipping point in our society where people discard their morals to achieve a selfish (in the sense that the word selfish is the opposite of selfless, and if sharing doesn’t necessarily mean good, then selfish doesn’t have to be a negative word) goal such as paying for food and shelter or their kids education. People do what is in their best interests, or in the best interests of their company because if they didn’t they wouldn’t be paid. Not to be preachy with ‘money is the root of all evil’, but I do think that if there was a better way we collectively as a global society decided that nobody had to work to survive, that everyone can afford food, shelter, and education, maybe we would see a decline in blind obedience to those who sign our paychecks and we wouldn’t have to have this discussion on why sharing or crowdforcing is bad.

Now on the other hand, with privacy and sharing, I think the number one rule is permission. Ask first, always source, don’t leave people in the dark. If you’re using something of the creators, they shouldn’t be unaware of where their content is being spread. If your audience likes something that isn’t yours, they should know exactly where to find more of the creator so they can offer praise or criticism or consume and support their other work. Journalism has been really bad with this lately in a lot of digital spaces, because there seems to be an almost limitless amount of people getting paid to say the same thing. Some are great. Some blatantly steal content then see the consequences of this in real time, such as if they embed a photo without permission, then the original creator finds out, and changes the photo to do harm to the website that stole from them. There have been countless articles I’ve come across that show people compiling lists of comments without citing the original author or even the forum space that they plucked the quote from.

Permission is an interesting beast, because sharing is so built into social media that the thought to ask for permission before sharing something that isn’t yours is a concept that doesn’t even cross the minds of the average citizen. I have friends in other universities where it is taught to them in introductory courses (what would be PACS for us) to ask permission before sharing a colleagues social media posts on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. Most of the time the answer to your request will be yes, but for those few times you get a no, it is very good that you asked the permission.

Privacy and the companies ability to share your information is very interesting to me. The average citizen waives permissions more often than they might think, such as when you click “I’ve read the terms and conditions” or “Yes I allow this app to access ABC on my phone”. By doing these things, the user then loses rights to things without knowing that they were, and companies have the freedom to do what they will with what you allowed them. A scam that has been happening on the android phone market is the use of simple flashlight apps asking for various permissions on your phone that a flashlight wouldn’t need access to. Why would a flashlight need to know your contact information or your step counter? The company that put that app up for free is now selling your data that they collected and you gave permission for to third parties.

My takeaway from today’s readings are that permission is always an important step in sharing, and to read all the documents that can potentially take away your privacy. Now the drawback to this is that if you don’t agree to their terms, you don’t get to argue your contract and you simply cannot use their service. Relating back to Golumbia’s point of “if you don’t like it don’t use it” being a poor way to run a system, sometimes the system isn’t moral enough to do anything better than to exclude those who don’t want to relinquish their rights.

-Luke Bolle

Technology: Me, Myself, and i[Phone] (September 10th, 2015)

A long time ago, once upon a time even, I was a small child who had grown up with technology at his fingertips in the way that our parents grew up with libraries and books. I grew up alongside technology and I never once, not until I had grown much older, even questioned if it was something other people used as frequently as I did. I saw people reading books, playing sports, making art, and watching film. It had to be the same with technology, computers, and video games… right? The relative history of my parents and their siblings showed me that it really was that new. Books older than the existence of our country. Sports with team histories that broke barriers. Art in museums filled with the bones of things that no longer walked this earth. But why did I know the same as the adults? Shouldn’t they have learned to use these better than I can as they grew up? They were learning with me and I didn’t even know it. They could solve harder math problems than me, run faster, but they still could only operate a computer at the same level as me. We were on equal ground.

My mother went into programming during my time in elementary school and would be up late hours writing code and spend that time with me teaching me little fragments of code and how to find and debug errors in her programs. Suddenly I’m in a world where I can do more with a computer if I learn how to. I could tinker with the software, because unlike taking apart a radio and then putting it back together, there was nothing physical for me to break. I found my own shortcuts and key commands to make my time on the computer more efficient. I looked at everything as if it had existed in ancient tomes and had people out there with encyclopedic knowledge of what to do. If something new came on the market, I wouldn’t even consider it as something groundbreaking. Just the newest car model improving on what had been there before.

When YouTube launched in 2005, I treated it as if it were as in the public eye as significant as the bible. Everyone knew about it but I didn’t know it existed until now, so surely someone can help me navigate. What I didn’t know was that I used something daily that only a few months prior only the team of developers and testers had experience with. I had to learn on my own, no one to help me. When Google acquired YouTube in late 2006, I felt as though the platform itself had a long history of its own, and looking back now I can see how the styles of videos have changed and improved as film making and editing have become more common for the layperson to use.

Bringing us up to speed to the present day I feel as though I have a synergistic relationship with technology. I use technology on a daily basis, for almost every aspect of my life I can think of. Except showers. Well, waterproof speakers actually so that’s out. Computers help me with various projects, or my projects are directly based through digital media such as the Theatre Department’s Twitter Improv Troupe Where’s Willie? in conjunction with the transmedia project Condemned (my character can be found here). I’ve grown up too though. I’ve been learning with the technology as it and I both grow older as I felt the adults in my life would. But something interesting happened. Because I could help them find what they were looking for, or fix a computer’s hardware after learning to tinker with physical objects, they no longer felt the need to learn. Their growth stagnated after they realized that someone else was learning and could do it for them. I am, like many of our classmates, the family IT person, even though it was my mother that taught me pieces of code so long ago. Unhappy with the idea of letting myself be distanced from technology as many are, a product of some odd drive to keep on the high ground of technology or plainly to ensure that my family would always have someone to answer their call to help, I continue to learn more, apart from my official academic field (a wise decision on my part as the Department of Theatre Arts moves towards a technology infused Transmedia Department) in the hopes that I can use these resources available to me to accomplish what I want to create in the subjectively best way possible.

As I explore these new different technologies, I ended up here, in this class for Digital Humanities because it offered another dimension to what I myself am trying to explore, as well as having the safety of a more guided and focused academic setting to explore with someone who does know what they’re doing, or at least willing to continue learning with us, the class. I’m even taking a formal programming course that draws me to one programming language to deepen my understanding of trained professionals in the field of software engineering.

With all that said, I turn my focus to our reading and podcast, and to answer the last question of ‘why do the things mentioned in them matter’? For the disability question, I believe that the fact that there are people who need the assistance to do something that someone without their disability can do without that assistance means that the people who have the abilities to create the tools to make technology more inclusive should see the benefits beyond what is monetary and see that their work can increase a subset of humanities quality of living immensely. I’ve even seen the technology we currently have, screen readers and magnifiers and voice commands be a necessity for some people I’ve worked with who have poorer eyesight and it worked wonders for them. Even the document readers were very basic though, as there were some very popular file formats that I tried sending to them that the document reader couldn’t process. If we want to move towards an inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to be happy and can do and learn as they please for the betterment of themselves and others, the opportunities need to be equally available to do so, and the creation of assistance for disabilities can help to close the gap and make society better as a whole.Where would we be in physics if Stephen Hawking no longer had the ability to share his knowledge with us?

Even the notion that the keyboard and mouse is necessary to operate a computer is just what we have been trained to do, I learned a from a teacher I had when I was very young that the mouse just makes things easier, and you can fully operate a computer without one. Touchscreens offer another different way to interact with your computer, and they are many other keyboards that aren’t in the standard ‘qwerty’ layout.

Women in programming is an interesting question to approach as well, because early in my life, my mother and computer teachers were all women in the field who could use the technology better than the men in my life. This too for a long time was something I had just accepted as well as a child, I just thought women were more inclined to computers. Today, I really don’t see why there is such definition between any gender. Historically, masculine and feminine qualities changed and shifted, and nothing really seemed to stick as “this makes you an xyz”. I think that really, anyone can use what they wish, and marketing’s slowly, very slowly realizing this and moving towards more inclusive campaigns where they don’t exclude potential demographics with their message. For example, I saw earlier this week two commercials: one for Nintendo and one for Star Wars, both of which felt very gender neutral, showing children and adults, women and men, all with a range of ethnicity all enjoying the product. And it truly more representative to the personal experiences I have. Star Wars and video games were never just for boys. Hopefully these changes take hold, but it takes time for these seeds that we’re planting in our young to grow. But that doesn’t mean that we have to give up on ourselves or the generations that didn’t grow up with technology.  We all can still learn and strive for self improvement, and we would reap those benefits now, as we take further root in our lives we would have the tools now to accomplish things that we thought we couldn’t, break through paper barriers we once thought walls.

To conclude, here is some information about some women in programming that I learned of through various research, classes, and academically interested friends.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton, lead software engineer on the Apollo project that took humanity to the moon, standing next to her handwritten code.

Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper, programmer who found the first computer bug (an actual bug), and innovated computer technology with the compiler and early programming languages.

 -Luke Bolle

Digital Humanities- What and Why? (September 9th, 2015)

Both of our readings today centered on various aspects of what makes the Digital Humanities the Digital Humanities. Mark Sample’s “The Digital Humanities is not about Building, It’s about Sharing” focused in on the future of DH, talking of the MLA’s new “Office of Scholarly Communication” and how with its leadership under Kathleen Fitzpatrick he has high expectations. He rattles off a list of potential outcomes for this future and his desire to advance DH. “Now is not the time to base the future on the past” is brought up at the end of his article, which points out and ignores the questions of legitimacy and scope, showing his desire and wishes for DH to flourish. His last point is that as Digital Humanists, we should share, “Because we can”. He raises the notion that we should share, collaborate with each other whether we are creating or analyzing. And this point is supported by Lisa Spiro’s “‘This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities”. She first uses her article to prime the reader on the necessity of having an overarching and more cohesive “Statement of Values” which would help to define the questions in this post: What are the Digital Humanities and Why are the Digital Humanities? Spiro’s proposed set of values include openness, collaboration, collegiality and connectedness, diversity, and experimentation. Collaboration goes back to what Sample talked about with Digital Humanists sharing and working together to make something greater than the sum of its parts. She proposes these values as a base for the rest of the DH community to expand upon, and with all of her listed values, I agree with them.

To answer the first question: What are the Digital Humanities?

I answer with: The Digital Humanities are a conglomeration of different, related though disjointed from their history with each other, set of thinkers and creators whose goal is to produce knowledge that furthers that which is already available to humanity through the use of new and emerging technologies and interaction opportunities.

The second question: Why are the Digital Humanities?

Can similarly be summed up as: The Digital Humanities exist as a critical eye to criticize, dissect, and produce that which we are now able to create and manage through the use of these new medias available to us, so we use and refine our definition of DH to suit what we are experimenting with in new ways to learn with this technology.

-Luke Bolle

Voyant: Words in the Clouds (September 3rd)

Voyant is an interesting piece of software, that technically speaking, works very poorly as a web based tool. I find its uses and applications interesting and vast, yet the volume of data that it is processing is so large, that when I found myself playing with particular tools, specifically the “sunburst” tool, it would cause my internet browser to stop responding and I’d have to start the whole process anew. Relating this back to modularity, the reason I would find this more useful as a downloadable standalone application is because, in my experience, web based tools are far more susceptible to program failures such as I experienced with Voyant, and locally hosted applications don’t react in such a “if I’m going down I’m taking you with me” sort of manner. Having an external failure of one program that doesn’t take everything else I’m doing across my emails, this blog post, and my research down with it leads to lessened frustration in the end user, for example if Voyant crashed and I had to restart my entire computer every time it did, I would lose efficiency and be more frustrated. Additionally, all of the tools would function without the use of plug-ins, for example, I was unable to get “lava” or “mandala” to work because I was missing some unspecified web plug-in (the picture looked like I was missing something from Adobe Flash, but looking at my available in-browser plug-ins I’m not missing anything crucial and I don’t expect Voyant to be using pointedly specific plug-ins without telling the user what they are.


 

Alt text is cool right?

I would frame this and put it on my wall. Maybe give a poster of it to a favorite high school Lit teacher.

Now moving on to why Voy-aunt (which doesn’t rhyme with buoyant, but savant) is a particularly interesting tool to utilize in humanities research. I used the Shakespeare texts, and I found myself playing with the visual aspects of the program, such as “bubblelines” which visualizes the words you input in a very nice almost artwork fashion. What caught my eye using this tool was how out of the words “good” “shall” “lord” “come” “sir” and “love”, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors only uses the word “sir” throughout it’s text, which sets it apart as the singular, though still visually appealing, monochromatic line among a series of more psychedelic ones.

 

Next I used the “knots” tool, which unlike “bubblelines” or “cirrus” gave me no usable information, and the ability to change the “angles” and “tangles” with no relevant correspondence to the data makes this tool seem very questionable.

Okay fine, my artwork at 12.

My artwork as a 6-year old, or classic Microsoft screensaver?

And when I was clicking around in it, this message popped up: raising more than a few questions while actually providing me with more interesting subject matter than what the tool generated.

Why is "good" bold?

Who is this for? Why is it here? Why is my only option to say “OK” after it rants to me?

Some practical applications to this software would be comparing two translations of a text (lets say Shakespeare again) to compare exactly how the wording changes between the slight variations in text. Or we could take, say, the First Folio and run it against Folgers modern translations to see how the language has or has not changed over time and how similar or completely different what we’re reading now is compared to the original texts. You could do the same with various translations of the bible and compare word clouds to see if one favors particular words over other synonyms and why that is. A short comment on the word clouds, looking through the media library (sharing this blog means sharing the libraries too if you noticed), I see how the cloud generated different shapes, patterns, and colors for the same data (credit for below clouds goes to whomever uploaded them).

downloadThe dataset provided in Figure 1 is provided from the Test Corpus 2 files.word cloud Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 12.54.24 PM Cirrus

Five different visualizations of word clouds or “Cirrus” for Dr. S’s test corpus.


A brief note on the shared media library: it is interesting to see what data is associated with each word cloud, such as file name. The diversity in the naming across these five clouds is more than I would expect.


Returning my post back to practical applications of Voyant, I think it can be used for many purposes other than finding commonalities within a corpus, though the visualizations seem to be most grand when they are accessing a large body of work. I could see myself using Voyant in many “this wasn’t made to do that but okay, I guess it works” kind of ways such as:

  • Running a personal journal through Voyant and analyzing the recurring themes, people, and places mentioned in the text to better understand how I got to where I am today.
  • Running the data of a series of lists, such as the lyrics to the Billboard Top 40 songs of any given day to see a visual representation of what words to you would probably hear if you turned your radio on. Another example would be using a list of ingredients for each menu item of a restaurant to see what their most used item is and use that information to gain insight to how they may make their recipes.
  • Analyzing the code of a program through Voyant to see how often a certain function is used.

If Voyant was slightly more powerful and could search short key phrases (Name Surname, places that aren’t one word like Los Angeles or New York, or just common word combinations or descriptors like chocolate milk or tired student) I think it would become exponentially more useful. I do not believe that the program accounts for aspects of the upload that are not actually “part” of the text, such as the Project Gutenberg disclaimers at the start of each text in the Shakespeare upload. Since it leaves that information, it skews the data slightly past what you are actually analyzing, and a system that allowed you to choose which parts of the document upload functions as text to analyze and which functions as non academic information would be something that takes Voyant one step further. Additionally, if it was able to count pluralizations and their singular forms as one set of data used (at least have a setting to inclusively count both as one countable object), this tool would be able to offer better analysis of comparing two subjects that may be missing information because it’s reading and comparing “love vs. hate” as opposed to “love/s vs. hate/s”.

Now as I round out this blog post, I would like to offer up a Cirrus of my own and some other analytics that I made to visualize all of the blog posts posted so far (including this one up to this point in the text) and how frequently some words are used.

This is us. We sure like talking about Voyant huh? Many words are repeated alongside their plurals too.

Collectively, we used a total of 1,267 unique words, said “Voyant” a total of 75 times, “Cirrus” a total of 7 times, and “fun” a total of 3. Though two of those were from one person, so they really liked using Voyant. To the one person who posted their blog while I was making and analyzing the above Cirrus, I’m sorry I couldn’t include you! Adding text to the corpus reader after initializing the program now suddenly seems like a useful feature too.

-Luke

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