Final Post

Ready, Set, GO

As a traditional reader, one is able to certainty pick up on thematic clusters, interactions, structure and so on, but it isn’t until you start using digital tools, where you are absolutely able to see both qualitative and quantitative occurrences, such as repetition of words and or various references to God for example. Digital tools take the best of both worlds, and slot them together.  So to summarize my argument, I strongly conclude that digital tools are the future, providing aspects of traditional readings whether it be through creating a hypothesis or by gaining qualitative and or quantitative information. However, the combination between digital tools and traditional reading is the most complete way to analyze a text.

The Beginning

Thinking back to the beginning of the semester in January seems like it was forever ago, but it was the beginning of my digital humanities journey. Coming from the lands of computers, blogging, and the creation of internet pages, I could not have ever imagined all the possibilities such tools could offer to enhance my understanding of Hamlet. My initial thoughts were “Professor Ullyot, how could you combine Shakespeare, who literally has a language of his own, with digital tools?”  Was this possibly the most awkward/ complicated combination ever? No it wasn’t, if anything it was a genius move. One thing I learned about reading Hamlet in two different semesters, as I mentioned in my other blog was that reading Hamlet isn’t as straight forward as picking up Harry Potter, and connecting the dots as the story unravels.  Hamlet is a text that one must actively read, while physically connecting the dots via notes in the margins. I did do this in the fall semester; however, I did not dive into the text and ask questions that were deeper than the surface. Or in other words, my interest didn’t lie in creating a hypothesis and making conclusions with solid evidence. While reading traditionally, repetition occurred, God references were used, and various tones were apparent throughout the text, but my questions were: “who cares and why does this matter?”. Through the use of digital tools, I learned that in fact these questions, references, and instances of repetition Shakespeare uses, are important to the text. If anything, they are the most interesting aspects of the text.

For example, although these are not the most interesting results, this tool from TAPoR pulls out names (or capital letters to be more correct) like Mars, Mercury and God. The way that this tool is capable of doing this, may for some reiterate important ideas or references, perhaps like Christianity for example.

Traditional Reading Benefits

  1. You can always trust the book as a correct source
  2. Structure is easily identified i.e.) line, sentence structure, interruptions
  3. Thematic clusters can be determined i.e.) body parts: head, heart
  4. Interactions can be determined i.e.) statements, questions, and answers
  5. Tone and performance is evident i.e.) is a character giving advice? Or is he angry?
  6. Figures of speech: metaphors, similes, double meanings

 

Flaws of the Tools

In order to use digital tools, you need to be smarter than the computer. Yes, the computer is a fast worker, but its brains do not equal the power of its user. Therefore, you must know what you are looking for, and at times you may need to question your results.  During phase 2, it was not until I compared my findings with other results from different tools (Monk, WordHoard, TAPoR, and WordSeer), that I really learned the downfalls to Voyeur. Quite often, Voyeur could not find words that certainly did appear in the text and in other tools.  The most frustrating example I had of this was found when searching for the word tongue in phase two in act 3. Voyeur told me 0 results, BUT I physically saw the word tongue with my own eyes in the text, and other tools were showing results of these occurrences. Here are three occurrences within act 3, where voyeur apparently was not recognizing any of them. Cool.

 

The work of Monk

More downfalls…

  1. Error messages are common
  2. Different versions of the text(s) can change your results
  3. Shakespeare’s language versus modern language = problem
  4. Tools search exactly what you type

 

Discovery

Warwick writes “the digital medium allows for a more inclusive approach to academic research, whereby users …become part of the process of discovery and interpretation”. Warwick’s words are exactly right, when your chosen tool is willing to work with its user and provide its user with correct results. Digital tools do not give you answers without work, it gives you data. Digital tools, Voyeur in particular, works as a hypothesis generator as a beginning step towards success. This is the beginning of your process of discovery. Right away by just looking at the visual word cloud you are able to see the words that occur most often: HMLT, Lord, love, play, and make. Or if you are a person who is more number orientated like I am, you could use the frequency chart, where numbers are listed by the most frequent used words.

While looking at the frequency chart for act 3, I’ve been given quantitative evidence: love is a word that occurs most (23 times) in act 3.  Although this is an evident theme a traditional reader could have easily pulled out after reading Hamlet, we must remember that we are only in the stage of constructing a hypothesis, where Warwick writes “users of digital resources do know what they need and if they don’t find it they will not use things that are unfit for their needs”.  In other words, digital users will keep looking until they are able to collect the evidence, whether it is qualitative or quantitative data, to make a conclusion. By keep looking, I mean these tools are not capable of pulling out the differences between how the word love is used. Hamlet states, “I did love you once” (3.1. 114) when speaking to Ophelia as way to express an emotion that was once there. In the play put on by the Players, you read “you shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife” (3.2.256). Yes, love is mentioned, but it is not really used in the context of an individual expressing love as an emotion to another individual.  Depending on what a user of digital tools was looking for, the quantitative data could distract you from coming to a correct assumption about love in the play. There are many other occurrences where this issue was present.  Hamlet/ Shakespeare uses the words honest and fair to question Ophelia, when in modern day, these terms are used very differently.  See my blog post for a further explanation and dictionary definitions.

Traditional Questions

With traditional reading though, what would one do with the theme love? We could use qualitative evidence to compare the different types of love? Or analyze how Hamlet uses the word love? Is he really in love with Ophelia? Regardless of the direction one may choose, I feel like a conclusion can be reached, but the so what factor is missing. Why not take your hypothesis to the next level and use frequencies, visuals and chart comparisons to deepen your analysis?

Making Progress

Since we were using digital tools, I decided that it wouldn’t make sense to go to the text we used in class to look for information, and then put it into my program. I tried to stay dedicated to digital tools. Luckily, my tool Voyeur allowed for me to maintain my dedication. Voyeur provides a corpus reader, which is practically the text itself. For some tools, this is where there was some disconnect.  Most other tool users could not a) read an entire act, scene, or play b) modify their text and or c) take their data, and achieve visual results. I believe most students will agree that tools are great for quantitative data, but Voyeur is much different. It combines the best of both worlds like mentioned above. (To be honest, the second half of the semester my text book of Hamlet sat collecting dust). Voyeur was, however, beneficial in the way that I could modify Hamlet to either include, or exclude things that were tainting my data. For example, one of the biggest downfalls to Voyeur was the fact that speakers could not be separated from their names being mentioned. In other words, this was ruining my quantitative data, by making it seem like Hamlet was mentioned 100 times, when over 75% of the Hamlet occurrences was when he was speaking.  TAPoR, however, was the tool which was responsible for gathering when characters spoke.  By separating character’s lines via TAPoR, then putting my information into Voyeur, it was much easier to analyze each character’s word choices, emotions (qualitative) and frequencies (quantitative) and or information.

Voyeur- Results are tainted because the file has not been edited

 

Because Voyeur offered the ability to read the text through the corpus reader, I was able to gain both qualitative and quantitative occurrences, which I don’t think was something I could have necessarily gained through traditional reading on its own.  Although I wasn’t able to “make notes on a piece of paper, doodle, fold it up and carry” Voyeur with me, like Warwick states when she compares traditional texts with digital humanities, the information I was able to drag out of Voyeur was something beyond any traditional reader could gain alone.

Corpus Reader - Just like a book ...

 

The conclusions I came to, as seen in my blog, was a combination of reading through the corpus gaining qualitative and quantitative information, then submitting it into the program to further analyze the qualitative data. Even though I was randomly typing in words, checking their frequencies and looking for connections, this would have been completely impossible through traditional reading. Again, I know this because the first time around reading Hamlet, these themes were overlooked, probably due to the complexity the story line or language.  First I noticed that Shakespeare makes references to body parts, for example “go, go, you question with a wicked tongue” (3.4.10), or compares words to daggers, “I will speak daggers to her but use none” (3.2.386).  By slowly typing in each word in search bar that was a part of the body, my phase two group was able to make the theme of our presentation based on senses (eyes, hearing, and speaking/ tongue). Finding this information was new to me. I never would have been able to make the connection between all of the senses, if I did not break down act three, and draw connections through the frequency occurrences.  I think by slotting information into a program allows you to slow down and analyze it in a way you never would. Like mentioned above, without the use of numbers or data to prove your point, the so what factor occurs. I strongly believe that with the help of digital tools, you are able to fill the so what void. It is like science. You make a hypothesis, but until you prove your hypothesis with data and results, it is invalid and useless.

Traditional vs. Digital

I believe that a reader could easily create a hypothesis, compare themes, words and references without the use of digital tools.  However, I strongly believe that with the help of digital tools, their speed, frequency lists, and visuals, can provide that extra bit of information that can take understanding and learning to entire new level. A computer or a digital tool, as we know, is smart, but not as smart as its user. Tools are full of flaws that can often taint our understanding if further investigation is not taken. In Warwick’s blog, she quotes Helen Chatergee who does work at UCL Museums and “suggests that when we handle real objects, different parts of our brains respond than when we see a digital surrogate”. It does not specify how the brain responds differently, but the fact that this quote states that it does, demonstrates that both digital tools and traditional reading used together could provide the most useful results. At least this way, our brains are responding differently to each method to gain a complete picture.

 

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print.

Warwick, Claire  http://clairewarwick.blogspot.ca/2012/01/inaugural-lecture.html

 

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