Initial Frustrations and the Hopeful Search for Results with TAPoR

For the analysis of Hamlet 3.4, I have been tasked to work with the tool TAPoR in order to pull out some results. To be perfectly honest, I am not happy with this tool so far (as you may have guessed from the title…). I suppose I should start by explaining that I am not a computer person; I prefer doing a close reading of a text with my own mind rather than with a tool. But then again it is nice to try new things, so I figure I may as well try. Granted, not all new things go over well. This is one of them. The limitations I am finding in the tool far outweigh the things it allows you to do. So far, the limitations I am noticing are:

  • The obvious lack of the human imagination. It’s all data, data, data when it comes to a machine, meaning you will miss out on a sort of open minded analysis. I am noticing that the tool is pulling my focus away from the text I am analysing. I am focusing on the results I pull rather than pulling out my own ideas from the text. This makes me feel as if I have blinders on and I’m only able to view the text in this narrow frame of view, unable to grasp everything that is being said by the play.
  • This is a tool which is very user unfriendly, making it a very frustrating thing to work with. I am not saying this simply because the layout is a tad bit dated, but it is sometimes incapable of processing the analysis you want, and instead gives you many error messages.
  • When I am able to have results produced I am unable to save them. I know saving is possible to do because there is a space on the work bench for saved results, but I can’t find anyway of saving my results. What I’ve had to do so far is copy and paste the results into a document and save it like that.

The tools you are able to work with have their own problems, in that they do not do much in the way of analysis results.

  • The tools I have been fiddling with are the word cloud as well as a listing of words, both of which are useful in pulling out key words and themes, but that their extent. I am given a list of words and I am left sitting here thinking “okay now what do I do with these?” I would find it better to go through my text with a highlighter, where I could pull out the same results.
  • The number and distribution with the list of words is lovely, but unfortunately it only shows a distribution chart for the first few terms listed.
  • Searching words is a tedious task, as it does not search through lemmas. Rather, I have to search related words individually. Which, needless to say, is a pain. But I’ll say it anyway.

In general, TAPoR is very much a qualitative tool. It can analyse a text with various tools which produce a list and number of words. With these words I am tasked to sort through the list and find similarities in usage. In the end, I must go to the text and pull out quantitative thoughts with what the text is saying. The one obstacle I have to overcome is that of shifting my mindset away from my own close reading, and letting the tool pull out the key terms for me. From there, I suppose I would go to the text with those results in mind and attempt to pull out a deeper meaning.

It is my plan in analysing scene 3.4 to use my tool to answer two queries:
1. What is the mood and theme of this scene?
2. What is the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude?

It is my task to figure out how I will go about answering these questions using my tool and hopefully it will produce results that are less frustrating than the tool itself. Wish me luck!


2 thoughts on “Initial Frustrations and the Hopeful Search for Results with TAPoR

  1. Kira, I definitely agree with you on a wide array of points you have listed. Most of them are on the con side of things, but that may be since I am still particularly upset with my lack of results. I agree with your statement that it does pull away from the text, making your main focus on the tool itself. I hope that as we continue fiddling around with TAPoR we can regain our focus on Hamlet and use the tool was a secondary analysis medium.
    I like how you are looking into the mood of this particular scene. In all honesty I never gave much thought into analysing the mood since I still continue to think of TAPoR as a frequency of word counter. I look forward to reading about your results in the future posts.

  2. Both of you note important limitations of our tools: we need our thinking to shape them, not the reverse. That said, think about how they enable new kinds of thinking, and step away from the computer to go through your text with a highlighter. How do you read differently? How can the tools give you word lists and other statistical data to quantify your impressions? Is that even possible?

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