With email and text abbreviations lowering our I.Q.s more than smoking, the possibility of Google turning the world into a 1984 disaster, and our luxury CO2 emissions causing the planet into becoming a Day After Tomorrow catastrophic mess, it is no wonder that we future English majors and current humanists of the world want to keep our traditional methods.Â Science versus nature: a situational archetype we are all too common with is becoming an ever growing concern in our world today.Â Fearing change and the possibility of technology getting into the wrong hands is a common fear that we all have.Â On that note, have any of you heard of the brain cells that can communicate with a computer chip?Â Check out this video here.Â Terminator, anyone?
And just when we [art students] thought we were safe with our ratty Shakespeare books and old fashioned book-in-one-hand-pencil-in-the-other-staring-squinty-eyed-at-unreadable-text-under-awful-lighting method, in comes the Digital Humanities.Â And we think to ourselves, â€œNo! This is the exact reason I chose this department! So I would never have to look at numerical concepts againâ€! Â Personally, it wasnâ€™t a lack of familiarity with technology but rather a certain stubbornness that comes with the study of literature which is to stick with our traditional and â€“ letâ€™s face it â€“ pretentious methods.Â My assumption, from reading the other blog posts in Phase 1, is that most of us had this notion at the beginning of the semester in one way or another. Â I learned two major things after my semester of digitalized humanities: the first being that digital tools do not make analyzing a text easier to comprehend (connections are not magically revealed to you) but instead gives the student every possible angle (depending on the tool; sorry Monkâ€¦Kate says youâ€™re not invited) to analyze the text from.Â And the second is that I will never doubt my own abilities to tackle traditional methods with digital methods ever again.Â Thinking back to the debate we tackled in class (The Digital Humanities: The future or a tangent?) the Digital Humanities is too fragile at the moment to be divided evenly into two such categories.Â There were frustrations with tools such as Monk yet I luckily had many great results with my tool, Voyeur.Â Martin Mueller, professor of English and Classics at Northwestern University writes â€œthey have so far put the digital into a ghetto â€“ a mutually convenient practise for those inside and outside, but probably harmful in the long runâ€. But what does that mean really?Â Are we, as humanists, too stubborn or too scared to approach digital methods?Â Or that â€œthe analysis of canonical texts by highly skilled readers with decades of experienceâ€¦not likely that machines will add much insightâ€? Aditi, the creator of WordSeer, made changes to the tool as the Phase 1 group tackled problems with the program.Â The Digital Humanities is still evolving and this evolution luckily took place right within our classroom as we got to see Aditi make changes to the program.Â Referring back to the debate in our last lecture, the â€œtangentâ€ side brought up the argument that the Digital Humanities takes away from the â€œartâ€ of reading and analyzing text that we English Majors pride ourselves on.Â This is apparently what separates us from everyone else.Â I disagree with this.Â What separates us is one, our common interest in wanting to pursue the study of humanities, and secondly, the dissecting and re-sculpting of ideas and literature introduced centuries prior and incorporating them in the world that we live in now.Â And this world is one of technology. Therefore, how we go about this is not the art of the study of humanities but how we regenerate it, is. Â I have studied Hamlet several times prior to this semester, seen various film adaptations, and stage productions, yet the Digital Humanities helped me discover new tidbits of the play on my own. Â I could have easily read someone elseâ€™s ideas on Hamlet and gone through countless essays of people with decades of experience on analyzing text to discover these tidbits.Â But discovering it on my own is part of the art.Â As students and enquirers of English, we deserve to use these tools to help give us a better foundation of analyzing texts rather than being overshadowed by others who have already been there and done so.
My Personal Experiences with Voyeur
I have very little experience with the other tools other than my own and only have the Phase 1 presentations to guide me on the benefits and struggles of the other four tools.Â My journey with Voyeur was an amazing one.Â Once I figured out the ease of using Voyeur, it became informative and visually appealing.Â As I previously said, my tool did not magically reveal Hamlet to me so I tried to approach the text as if I was reading it for the first time.Â The Word Cloud instantly revealed the words most used within Hamlet and this way I was able to pinpoint the common themes and look into the significance of the repetition of the words.Â Voyeur revealed quotes and passages within the play by clicking on a single word that I wanted to find out more about.Â Another benefit that my tool provided was what wasnâ€™t revealed to me.Â For example, if I was examining terms that occurred most frequently, I began to take note of things that were missing.Â This is what helped me discover the â€˜tidbitsâ€™ of the text that I was talking about earlier.Â For instance, in Phase 1 when we examined 3.4, I read the scene several times and concluded that it was a significant character development scene for Gertrude and the relationship that she and Hamlet share.Â After I put the text into Voyeur, the tool confirmed my analysis.Â However, after sorting through the words most commonly used and the characters speaking, I realized how there was nearly no mention of Polonius.Â And I thought this was odd because this is the scene where he dies.Â However, after sorting through the text, I saw that Gertrude and Hamlet instantly go back to their private issues after Polonius is stabbed.Â There is no further mention of his death until he is dragged off stage.Â And now you might be thinking, â€œso whatâ€?Â Well, this was a revelation for a couple reasons: one, I hadnâ€™t noticed this before because I was so consumed with the bigger things going on within the scene with Gertrude, Hamlet, and the Ghost (and this has happened every time I have read Hamlet).Â And secondly, once I realized Gertrudeâ€™s lack of concern for a murder that occurred right in front of her, along with how what the Ghost says about Gertrude, â€œO, step between her and her fighting soul: conceit in weakest bodies strongest worksâ€ (3.4.110-110), this revealed more to me about her character than I had ever thought before. Â If I was writing a paper on 3.4, this could be a strong argument that I could use to analyze Gertrudeâ€™s character, with my argument being that she [Gertrude] is too frail to acknowledge death, deceit, and murder.Â Hamletâ€™s disregard for Poloniusâ€™s death also reveals his sanity at this point within the play and how he can kill without remorse compared to the previous acts. Â Small tidbit + big discoveries = analytical power.Â I was led to this discovery by Voyeur and I wouldnâ€™t have noticed this or even thought it was important before.Â Because, like I said, itâ€™s so easy to get caught up in the bigger things going on within the play or to feel overwhelmed by the text as a whole. Â Now I was curious to see what Voyeur would do for me when it came to a text I hadnâ€™t read before. Â In English 205, one of the plays we were focusing on was Othello, which I had never read or seen prior to the course. Â Once I had read the play, I uploaded a word file of Othello into Voyeur and made minor notes like how Iago speaks far more than any of the other characters, how â€œhandkerchiefâ€ was mentioned more than any other object within the play, and how the words â€œgoodâ€ and â€œhonestâ€ were often used in correlation to â€œIagoâ€.
When we had our weekly tutorial and discussed the play, the minor points I had discovered through Voyeur were very significant to the play overall.Â What Voyeur gave me was a foundation to work with and make bigger connections later on as I did in my tutorial.
In conclusion, the works of Da Vinci and Van Gogh were not tossed aside with the invention of acrylic cubism, poetry was not lost in modern free verse, and the essence of literature will not be forgotten in the Digital Humanities!
Shakespeare, William.Â Hamlet.Â Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor: London, 2006. Print. The Arden Shakespeare Third Series.
Martin Mueller,Â http://cscdc.northwestern.edu/blog/?p=332#comments