Digital Humanities, My Eyes Are Wide Open.

In the beginning…

In the words of Hamlet, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking it makes it so”. The
digital humanities have two basic critics. The first welcome and anticipate the
new ways of learning through up to date and ever expanding online sources, and
the second to put it simply, aren’t as subject to change and prefer the hands
on approach with the actual play in front of them. However, I find it rather
difficult to associate myself with either group, due to the fact that I feel I
was given a false first impression of all that the Digital Humanities can do
for us. The troubles encountered throughout the term were far from miniscule,
and of course I made sure that everyone knew the feelings I was experiencing,
mostly in a particular phase 1 blog post, ‘The building similarities of Ophelia and I.’ Once
you begin associating yourself with a suicidal and slightly insane Shakespearean character, Ophelia, you know things
aren’t going so well. To say I had some difficult times is a drastic
understatement. If I had to declare a general theme as the base of my blog
posts as a whole throughout phase 1 and phase 2, I would probably say it was Self Pity. My focus was almost strictly
centered around what my text analysis program Monk couldn’t do.
Shakespeare expressed through Hamlet how he felt that the world is run by
opinions, which we often listen to more so than the actual facts. While the
Digital Humanities may have proved themselves useful to me, I developed a
rather sour view on text analysis programs in general, due to the frustration
and confusion I experienced with Monk. It was not until I read Tara Andrew’s
blog post, http://byzantini.st/2012/04/coding-and-collaboration.html, that I
began to understand that the issues I was encountering were not completely one
sided. Andrew’s post was able to open my eyes to the difficulties the creator
undergoes while not only learning to code, but the making of a program. Despite
Monk having swayed my opinion to the negative side of the Digital Humanities at
the beginning, Andrew’s and some further research gave me a new perspective on
how  this ‘new’ concept of studying texts deserves not only recognition, but an understanding of the background work that
goes into it. Due to the unpleasant nature of my ongoing negative issues with
Monk, I am unable to say that this particular program came in use. If I had to
choose between Monk and simply reading through the text myself, I would pick
the old fashioned novel-in-my-hands approach. BUT, after some deep thought,
reading Andrew’s post, and discovering a new find appreciation towards open-mindedness,
I have come to the conclusion that text analysis and the Digital Humanities in
general is a useful alternative to how we would once analyze particular
documents.

Questions, Questions, and More Questions…

Throughout the progression of not only this class, but my own personal time spent at home
in front of the computer, I developed many questions regarding not specifically
Monk, but text analysis in general. At first it was hard for me to understand
what I was doing, let alone WHY I was doing it. As was mentioned in my very
first blog of phase 1, http://hannahlacoursiere.ucalgaryblogs.ca/?p=3,
I referred to my difficulties by stating, “I feel the need to blame it mostly on my extreme lack of abilities to operate a
computer properly.”
But it wasn’t just my rather small knowledge on technology that was setting me back. In
order for me to understand things properly, I have to know WHY I am doing it,
and for some reason this was hard for me to wrap my brain around. I kept asking
myself…

  •         What is the point of text analysis?
  •         Wouldn’t it just be easier to stick to the original old fashioned way of strictly learning by hands on approach with the
    novel right in front of me?

Following my discovery of Andrew’s blog post, which mostly expressed the difficulties faced by the creator, I developed two new questions:

  •         Is either individual’s effort worth it?
  •         Do the struggles that both ends of the spectrum experience through learning and creating ultimately pay off?

 

Monk and Failed Expectations

Spending all of your time on analyzing the negative side of a
particular subject, doesn’t help anybody, especially when you are working with
a group. Nevertheless, I continually felt as though I was a big disappointment
to my entire phase 2 group, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t seem to find any
value in what Monk had to offer me. It was only once we were able to
collaborate our programs uses that I figured out a way to look at texts through
Monk in a seemingly helpful manner. By receiving frequent text lists from my
fellow Wordhoard and Voyeur experts, I was able to examine the context in which
they appeared through the Concordances tool, as seen below.

 

 

 

 

 

For example, after discovering that ‘alas’ was a commonly used
weird amongst Gertrude’s vocabulary, I searched it through Monk, and was able
to get a better grasp on the particular situations in which she used this
specific word. I often wondered if what I was doing would have been just as easily
done by examining the text by looking through the actual play, but in this
case, Monk proved itself to be a time saver as well as it was able to show all
the occurrences of the word in a list, which saves you from having to flip back
and forth through the book.

Originally I had been anticipating using the comparison
tool, which had been Monk’s finest achievement due to the fact that this
program was created to be used as a way of comparing two separate texts. Unfortunately,
when the time came to start developing our phase 2 presentations, it stopped
working. Typically, it is supposed to work like this:

You choose a first workset followed by a second, select the
analysis method you want to explore (frequency comparison is used in the
example above), choose between spelling or lemma (lemma is used in this case)
and finally specify which feature class you are wanting to look up (noun).

The purple displays the most frequently used nouns in Shakespeare’s
tragedies, and then green does the same but with Shakespeare’s comedies.
Although it isn’t shown in the screen shot, once you scroll down there is a
list of white words which shows us the most commonly used words combined
between the two texts being examined. Using this in regards to phase 2 seemed
ideal due to the premise we created, being to compare Hamlet with other
Shakespeare tragedies. But, like I mentioned, it wouldn’t work. Monk would
simply not recognize the worksets I had previously defined, and despite changes
in browsers and login names, it wouldn’t budge. The frustration I was feeling
only seemed logical to direct it at none other than the creators of Monk.
Obviously they had done something wrong, and by not fixing the current issues,
it seemed as though they had abandoned their creation and left the users to
deal with the problems at hand. And then, I read a blog post that changed my
previous opinion, almost entirely…

Discoveries Through Another Perspective

Tara Andrews, author of Codes and Collaborations was able to open my typically stubborn eyes with her take on the perspective often ignored; the problems the creator endures while creating a text analysis program. In the words of Gertrude…


 

 

 

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Yes, Gertrude, I’d have to agree. It was about time I stopped
complaining, and learned more about the forgotten point of view of the creator.

Andrew’s addresses some of the disheartening moments of failure in
her blog post, stating “For all the ‘Eureka’ moments, there are a hundred moments of wondering why your test is failing now”
and “…the sinking feeling that you have solved this particular annoying data transformation problem three separate ways on four separate occasions”. The author points out that while using this programs is encouraged, it is often worthy of your time
in the long run to learn how to do coding yourself. Not only would it give you
a new found appreciation for all the behind the scenes work that is put in
while making a program, but it would also help you figure out what all can be
discovered through text analysis.

In conclusion…

While I have to say that I am, and will always be an old fashioned gal at heart (at least in
regards to English), throughout this term, I’ve begun to see the actual worth in learning about
and using the Digital Humanities to help me with analyzing texts on a deeper
level. I refuse to let my negative experience with Monk affect how I feel about
text analysis as a whole, because from what I could see from the other programs
we learned about, Monk was the exception when it came to non-useful programs. I felt as though this class was more than just an introductory course on all the Digital Humanities can assist us with. I deeply appreciated the chance to write in a more casual manner than is usually expected in a typical english class. I was educated not only on text analysis, Hamlet, and how to conduct a proper blog post, but I also saw that there is an extreme amount of value in opening your eyes to other ways of approaching a subject which is usually so set in stone, in regards to how it not only taught, but how you interpret it. Taking a look back at the questions I had originally been asking myself, I’d have to say things are much clearer now. I see the benefits in the Digital Humanities as opposed to analyzing texts in previous more traditional ways. Not only is it much faster, but you are able to see things in ways which are much harder to grasp while simply reading a hardcopy of the play.  Is the effort put in by both sides of the party worth it? Does it pay off? I can’t answer this for everybody, but as for the learning aspect, yes. I do believe it pays off. Not to mention it never hurts to expand your knowledge on any given subject. In regards to the creation side, as Tara Andrew’s said, “Understand that the things you want to do are still going to be hard, and forbiddingly time-consuming, without any sort of guarantee that the investment will pay off.” Not exactly uplifting, but it’s a choice people make. I for one, am thankful for those people.

I'll never leave you, old friend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Andrews, Tara http://byzantini.st/2012/04/coding-and-collaboration.html

Hamlet & Monk (and my brain) in Hibernation

I’ve decided to start this blog off on a completely negative note (something completely unusual for me, I know) by stating that this will probably be my worst entry to date and that it may lack in all things relating to making sense. I’ve gotten lots of really positive feedback concerning my last post, which has been awesome. However, I honestly feel like there is nothing intelligent left in my head to put down on ‘paper’ today. An overload of essays and papers and presentations has simply put my brain in a state of hibernation. As much as I am trying to focus, I am consistently finding myself looking at the wall with a blank stare on my face. That being said, I will try my absolute best to give everyone an update on the wonderful world of Monk and its progress with Act 4 and phase 2 as a whole!

Like I said in my last blog post, I had a rough idea as to what I, and the rest of my group, had planned on doing in regards to incorporating Monk into a hopefully helpful position for this new phase. After a little more research, it seems as though this may be achievable! Although I am still having problems with getting Monk and it’s workset comparisons tool to work. I find it positively frustrating that unlike other analysis programs that we learned about in class, we have no way of communicating our issues or concerns with the creators of Monk. They truly did abandon ship on this project. Tis quite saddening. But, there is really nothing we can do about that, especially at this stage of the game. At least from all of this I have become an expert on finding ways around issues! Or in other words, completely disregarding the original idea and moving on to something that is actually accomplishable.

My trusty phase 2 group has decided that it will work best to result to a nice ol’ reliable flow chart. Everyone’s programs were strategically placed so that it may do its part and then give its findings to the next in line so that more results will be produced. We begin the chart with Tapor. This program is able to define its own ‘worksets’ (pardon the Monk lingo) by specifically stating what it exactly wants to examine, whether it be a full act or simply a speech. Kira than hands these documents off to Katy who is able to grab hold of word frequencies for specific characters. Finally, Wordhoard, Wordseer, and Monk (Allison, Ayesha, and myself) are all able to take these word frequencies and see the context in which they arise in regards to particular characters that we are taking closer looks at. More specifically, we will compare the commonly used language between characters in different plays. I displayed an example of this in my last blog, but just for a refresher, we will be comparing the relationship and the language used between the pair Gertrude and Claudius in Act 4, scene 1 and Emilia and Iago in Act 5, scene 2.

If only we could make all difficult tasks and challenges in life into nice little flowcharts! Hopefully our chart in regards to our research and eventually our presentation works just as smoothly…

I realize this is still a very rough draft but I do feel like we have made a decent amount of progress. Everything is sort of at a stand off while we continue to figure things out individually. We at least know the direction we are heading in and what we are looking to eventually accomplish. I also know that as we use our programs more to get these first initial goals, I feel like we will be able to discover other things or tools that may deem themselves useful for our final presentation. Am I trying to hard to end this all on a positive note? That is for me to know, and you to ponder…

The building similarities of Ophelia and I.

Apparently you can run from the problems that arise with Monk, but you most certainly can’t
hide. My old enemy ‘frustration’ was presented to me once again after I began
looking for ways in which my program could prove itself to be useful in the
final stages of researching our text analysis programs. Of course when I expect
things to go slightly better than they previously have, they never do. Last night
I settled in at my desk to do some exploring of my program. I wanted to find
even an ounce of value from Monk that I could present before my group the
following morning. I knew this may be a difficult task, but I never expected it
to be as excruciating as it was. I came across a problem that was brand new to
me. I had never experienced this before, although I have since then discovered
that others in my Phase 1 group had.

It began with me trying to define a few new worksets that I could take a closer look
at, and eventually be able to compare different acts from Hamlet in hopes that
this would perhaps come in use for Phase 2. But shockingly (note my sarcasm)
Monk has decided it is no longer allowing me to have the ability of defining my
own worksets. More specifically, I am able to create a workset labelled “Act
One” but when I go into the compare worksets option, it tells me that I haven’t
created anything new. I honestly tried doing it about 100 times before I gave
up all hope. I called in for reinforcement, and my old trusty phase 1 friend,
Hayley, was there with a helping hand. Unfortunately our combined brain power
was not enough to make it work. We tried everything we could think of, but
regardless after downloading a new browser and countless different log-in
attempts, we sadly hung our heads in shame. Ok, not quite. But it was exasperating
to say the least! In the end, I decided I will give it a try on my grandpa’s
computer in the morning. If this doesn’t work, you’ll probably never see me
again as I will probably result to the same fate as Ophelia. Hey non nonny
nonny…

With the help of my group I was able to construct some fairly useful ideas of what
my stubbornly difficult program Monk can do. Well, at least I am hoping it will
be able to do. But for the time being I can still talk about what I PLAN on
doing. Since Monk’s main original purpose was comparisons, we figure that it
may be able to help us compare relationships between characters in separate tragedies.
To name an example, we can try and relate Hamlet to a fellow revenge-filled
character in Othello; Iago. Both are plotting murderous acts upon someone who
they feel has done them wrong. What I am thinking I might be able to do is
examine a specific speech of one of the charcters, take note of words that
represent what I would assume could appear in the other play, and use the concordances
option in Monk to see if my assumptions were right and see if my list of words
appear in the other characters speech. I should also be able to use the Naive
Bayes tool and see if the overall tone of Act 4 compared to an act with Iago in
it (in Othello) has similar results.

What was done in the above screen shot would then be repeated in a specific act in Othello, and the scenes in which Iago is most prominent would be the one that is analyzed; same goes for whatever scene Hamlet appears in.

I have this quiet nagging feeling in the back of my head that is telling me that
none of this will actually work, but I figure I should at least give it a shot.
I mean, it sounds like a decent idea, right? I can at least pretend like I have
some hope left in me.

New Hopes For New Beginnings!

As sad as I am to leave my previous group members, I was pleasantly surprised at how well my new group meshed together! I have nothing but high hopes for us, as we all seem to have the same ambitions and goals in regards to how we will do with this project. It was no surprise that upon reaching the question in the contract for our anticipated mark, we all said with big smiles, “A+!” I mean, who isn’t aiming for the best possible grade?
Organization seems to come easily to the other girls, which coming from someone who doesn’t naturally have that skill, I am very pleased to say the least. An agenda that we plan on making before each meeting time is sure to keep the ball rolling, and it will make sure we use our time together to the best of our abilities. Procrastination being my middle name, I am thankful to have the necessary pressure of a timeline to keep me focused. Ironically, after I wrote that sentence I focused my attention on “Ellen” for a solid ten minutes. Tsk tsk, will I ever learn?
After rereading Act 4, our designated area of study, I analyzed it more carefully and began to see sort of a pattern within the text. This act is all about anger and harsh tones spoken amongst the characters. Gertrude begins the first scene by explaining the murder of Polonius to Claudius, and how basically there is no hope left for Hamlet. The exasperated feel we get from Gertrude is passed on to Laertes when we see him learn about not only his father’s death but that his only sister has gone completely mad. Exasperation turns to anger, which is followed by the intense need to get revenge on Hamlet for what he has done to him and his family. Claudius participates in Laertes anger by expressing his suspicions against Hamlet who he feels is trying to take the throne from him. A murderous plan is developed between the two characters, and the scene ends with the same amount of anger and anxiety as it did begin with. After seeing the continuing displays of anger, I figured this may be a good start to using my good ol’ faithful (ha!) program Monk to analyze the act more deeply.
Potentially we could use our programs, more specifically we could use Monk, to compare the amount of negative and heated words that are found in act 4 and see if the same feeling is evident amongst other scenes. Although Monk is designated to be used for larger texts, I feel that since we will be comparing this specific act to another act, they will roughly be the same size which should help with producing useful results.

In regards to what my fellow group members may be able to do, I suppose it depends on the specialty that their programs revolve around. Either way I feel like we will be able to get a well rounded amount of results which will help us get right to the bottom of analyzing act 4.

Monk; the bad and the beautiful.

My initial reaction of the text analysis program “Monk” was that I figured compared to the others, it seemed to have a fairly modern feel and look to it. I instantly had high hopes that it would be the most up to date program we had examined out of the five. Unfortunately, my optimistic approach didn’t last as long as I would have liked. I desperetely spent the entire TDFL session trying to log in to the website but had no such luck. Thus began the hell we now call, Monk.
Besides discussing the troubles and frustrations we had all individually encountered, our group did manage to sort out most of the kinks of the program. That being said, there were a lot of glitches discovered in the program as well as an overall sense of confusion. It seems as though the designers/creators of Monk decided it was necessary to make a maze of disaster to get to the final outcome of what you were looking for. To put it simply, nothing comes easy in regards to Monk.
Getting back to the introductory problem, Monk has its fair set of problems when it comes to logging in, in general. If you try to log on to Monk while in internet explorer, it won’t work. Simple as that. A fellow group member suggested I try using google chrome or firefox and only then did it complete the login process. My big question here… why?! I can’t even begin to understand why Monk chooses not to run while in the most basic internet option. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.
Not only does Monk choose to be difficult when it comes to log in in, there is also no save option anywhere on the site although it claims that there is one. This means you have to basically start from scratch every time you want to begin your research on specific lemmas or anything else you have done for that matter.
There are also numerous annoying glitches such as it telling me that I haven’t clicked a workset to work on but I so clearly have. You just have to wrestle with it for a bit before it finally decides to accept the fact that you truly indeed have chosen the workset.

It became very clear that Monk is mostly designated for comparisons. While it allows you to create a workset (a document including texts that you want to analyze), this really only comes in use when you are comparing two texts. If you are looking to examine one piece, for example Act 3 Scene 4, it allows you to click the workset you have previously uploaded and saved, but after choosing it makes you do it all over again. It truly makes no sense, and is a continuing hassle to constantly have to re-choose what you are looking to analyze. The worst part is that it makes you think you won’t have to, but you do! They could at least acknowledge the present problems rather than act as if they don’t exist.
Despite the havoc we encountered while trying to sort things out with Monk, we did manage to get some good ideas rolling for what we want to specifically look at and what we can achieve and discover through the program. Despite the general hatred we feel for Monk, I still feel positive that we will be able to make it work…somehow.