Words and Their Relations: Wordseer and One of Its Uses

In English 203 I’ve been working with Wordseer as part of a group specializing in that tool. Because I’m new to the digital humanities field, I am also new to the tool Wordseer. In order to better understand Wordseer and how it helps me study the digital humanities, as well as to help along the other students in my class in it’s understanding, I came up with a couple of questions.

The first question I asked, and the one was “what is one use of Wordseer?”. What I found was that Wordseer is unique, among the tools in the Digital Humanities that I’m familiar with, in that it has a search function to find how words interact with each other. This is helpful in finding the opinions of characters towards certain things or other people. It is better to do this with specific people or places or things. Using Hamlet as the text, I entered Ophelia described as blank so as to find how the characters felt about or viewed Ophelia.

Ophelia described as blank

Ophelia described as blank

The results show that Ophelia was fair, poor and sweet. I can see this as a very useful and important tool because it gives me a good idea of how Shakespeare intended us to view Ophelia, as well as the overall opinion that the other characters have of her.

We can also go to the bottom of the page and look at the results in a better context.

This section of the tool is useful because it helps the user to understand the specific situations that the word is used in. The word is shown with a few lines around it, this allows the user to get the mood and the tone of the situation the word is used in. One problem, though, with this section is that it tends to be a limited view of the word, but, by clicking on the indicated icon, you can read the full section of the text that the word is used in and the text from the search page is highlighted to let the user know where the word is in the text.

This allows the user to know who is speaking, also allowing the user to know how that character feels about the word he or she searched for. In my case, from this search and only a few lines around the given sections of text surrounding each use of the word Ophelia I can find out these things about her in a very short amount of time:

  • She is fair of appearance.
  • She grows mad sometime during the play.
  • She drowns sometime during the play.
  • Hamlet in particular thinks her beautiful.
  • When she dies she is deeply missed by Laertes.

From this narrative, I’ve learned one excellent way to interpret a text with Wordseer. Using the search function, a user can interpret what a character place or thing is like. This is a very helpful function in literary analysis in that it can help define a character.

2 thoughts on “Words and Their Relations: Wordseer and One of Its Uses

  1. Jessie,

    Your point regarding the interpretations that can be drawn simply from how a character is described by others in the play is an effective point of focus, moving well towards the potential qualitative value of word seer that we as a group may seek to identify. Additionally, I now recognize from reading this point that it is, perhaps, most effective to simply input character names described as “blank”, contrary to the problems I was facing earlier in my own research, in which I attempted to input Hamlet described as “insane”, with little success. Additionally, in reading this entry I am also prompted to consider the extent to which not only the characters can be identified with data values, but also, the situations within the play as well. These considerations lead me to ask myself: “Is it possible to develop interpretations about a certain situation in the play just from evaluating the words and trends that are returned from the word seer data?” Perhaps this could be a further step in our investigation as a word seer group? This being said, this post is a great start to the process of both discovering and identifying with the benefits of the tool word seer, and will serve as an effective basis for further research and inquiry. As a final comment, to pit word seer’s results against human intuition, perhaps we should see if we could list what we would expect(in regards to the words used to describe a certain character within the play) to find about a character from our own closed-reading, and then compare them against word seer’s results? If there is an obvious correlation, word seer just might be the most valid of all of these tools. Well done,

    -Dane

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