Wordle: Untitled

This week has been my best experience yet with our “web wednesday” class setting. I finally felt in control of the different tasks at hand. As the session went on i felt on top of the different assignments as the clocked moved i wasn’t rushing to keep up but had enough time to work on each task respectively. As far as the wordle and ngram , i could see how they can be useful as digital humanity tools. I believe these tools are in many ways new ways to do the multiple old things that weren’t able to be done together before. As far as the effectiveness i do see where it can be effective but i also see where it can be more of a distraction as well, where students are using the tools for its creativeness not for its usefulness.

According to the internet the digital humanities can be referred to as the modern day way to learn. Out with the old in with the new seems to be the motto, but is the “new” even new to begin with or is it just another form of a compound sentence, bringing old words together formulate a new sentence. Engines like Ngram and Wordle are to types of different ways to actively participate in digital humanities. To study the effectiveness i will use my own ngram and wordle results to show if these tools are helping interpret literature or if its just a smoke screen of info.

Digital humanities defined by wikipedia “is an area of study, research, teaching, and invention concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Sometimes called humanities computing, the field has focused on the digitization and analysis of materials related to the traditional disciplines of the humanities. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines “. As a English major to hear that some English classes in certain universities are virtual classes is kind of bizarre. Personally i do not see a place where the two intertwine but my lack of knowledge in this particular area of study may be hindering my opinion as well. Now I do see where it does have its place in a English classroom, the advantages of being able to learn so fast in a short amount of time is amazing. Where it doesn’t help is in the determining of what is important and what isn’t, now of course it can spit information at you but will it be able to tell you what information is actually relevant in interpreting the literature in front of you.

N-gram is describe to model sequences, notably natural languages, using the statistical properties of n-grams. When interpreting literature none of the following is relevant, my n-gram results provided me with dates and time periods when specific words were used or mentioned in literature. It told me nothing about the actually literature that i needed to know. One of my words that were in the search was the word “frog”. When i clicked on it , it brought me to a list of books that either used the word or had a theme about frog in the time period that my short story was published. I found my self looking at about fifty different titles and authors that absolutely made no sense to me. I did not see the relevance in using the n-gram, it did not teach me more about my short story at all. What it did do is gave me a lot of other stories about frogs or that mentioned the word. I can see how it can be useful, if you need a book or book that talks about a particular subject from a particular time using n-gram might be the best search tool to use. As far as interpreting my short story which was the task at hand, it did not help as much as I would of liked it to. I now know about twenty other short stories or books that base their theme on frogs, but it did not tell me a thing about the significance of the frog in my short story.

“Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.” This appears on the first page of the “wordle” website, this is the most accurate description I could of thought of for this particular device, so i stole it because that’s really all it does. My personal wordle (http://eng170wqc.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/digi-manities/) did not give me any insight on what i needed to know about my short story. It did what the website described it would, generated words in a form of a word cloud from the text that I provided. Interpreting literature it cannot, it is not designed too. That is the problem with this program, its a program designed to do its function and that is it, nothing more nothing less.

Does digital humanities really interpret literature or just analyze data?


How Richter maps literary theory and the way literature is broken down in the eyes of different reader is amazing. He breaks down the different readers based on their personal title, audience, author or world, he then explains the point of view that this particular reader will most likely read from. I see it to be very accurate, having read from all three of these different points of view at one time or another in my life i can agree with his mapping on critical theory. To correctly add digital humanities to Richter’s map in my personal opinion i feel that we should make a whole knew category for it, just because in many ways it is capable of mimicking each and every standpoint that a reader may read from. One major advantage that using the internet to understand literature gives is the ability to have so much data and research within a click of a button. The most common problem when reading poetry is not able to fully grasp what the author is really trying to say. With the addition of the digital humanities this does not have to be as hard, sites like sparknotes and wikipedia have made information readily accessible. So now when trying to understanding what a author wanted to say reading in between the lines is no longer necessary because we have different engines that do that part of the work for you. These different digital humanity tools can be seen as advantages because they usually have the answers to all questions, but answering a question and understanding the answers are two different task at hand while breaking down literary work. In short the advantage that using the tools that the digital humanities bring are unmeasurable because they take the reader out of their usual reader stand point. With these additions you can read from whatever point of view your heart desires.

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4 Responses to “Digi-manities”

  1. Kevin Ferguson says:

    Hi Jerry,

    I’m not sure you need the massive wikipedia quote. In fact, the previous paragraph does a better job of establishing your own terms and motive, where with the wiki quote my eyes start to glaze over.

    I think you make a good point when thinking about whether or not “information is actually relevant”–just having the information isn’t enough, and shouldn’t be the point of digital humanities. On the other hand, making that information useful, or useful in a new way, should be the goal.

    I think maybe you approached the Ngram from the wrong point of view; it is itself just a massive list of words–the links you clicked on would be links to the where the words originally appear. So, you’re not supposed to look at all the other books that happened to mention, say, “frog.” But rather, you could look at overall patterns in how a word like “frog” was used, compared to other related words (like, toad or amphibian).

    Maybe that, and your dissatisfaction with Wordle, have to do with new expectations for digital humanities?

  2. seslami says:

    “That is the problem with this program, its a program designed to do its function and that is it, nothing more nothing less.”
    -Do you really believe that it just simply does its function and nothing else? Couldn’t one argue that a book is just a bunch of paper with words stapled together with no function? Isn’t it up to the reader/person to sit and analyze the book and in this example, the wordle? The wordle shows which words appear the most often, and which appears the least. The author must have been trying to convey some sort of message with their words, no?