A Rocky Start, A Triumphant Finish

Introduction: Taking the book worm into the realm of computers

This semester has been a roller coaster to say the least. I started this term as a traditional reader with a pen in one hand and the book, play or texts in the other and was dropped into the world of computers, computer programs and digital analysis. (Terrifying, I know.) My initial feelings with the whole process were feelings of trepidation, anxiety and a little bit angry that new technology was taking over something I have always loved. Andrew Prescott wrote in his blog,  “a sense of being overwhelmed by technology, of anxiety about the way in which new technologies are transforming society”, which is exactly how I felt. “Why change something that is not and was not broken” was also something that kept going through my mind in the introductory weeks.

I am a person that is not a fan of change, so I really struggled to find the beauty in the digital humanities. My internal struggle and my main questions during the semester were focusing on the pros and cons of the quantitative process over the traditional qualitative process. How will the numbers, figures and pictures help us gain more insight and new views into texts we have studied for centuries? Will this type of analysis help or hinder the reader and researcher when looking at a piece of work?

Trials and Tribulations with TAPoR

My first foray into the digital humanities world was less then promising. The tool I was given was TAPoR and for the computer impaired, it was torture to figure out. I saw my grades slip from between my fingers and so I cursed all things computers for the next month or so. My first few blogs I posted were less then steller to me but most people found pure enjoyment from them. TAPoR and I could not seem to work together, and the more I pushed the more it pushed back with error messages. A couple of error messages is not bad but when you run 12 separate searches and get 12 different error messages it just takes computers fighting back to a whole new level.

For your enjoyment here are a few:


Once I figured out what TAPoR likes and what is does not, I started seeing results. This was a glimmer of hope in what I was sure was a doomed project. However, this glimmer soon flickered out and I again I was left in the dark hopelessly trying to find the light. The huge problem I have found using my tool is that same results are hard to come by. For example I used the same program (TAPoR), and the same text (Hamlet), and ran them through the same tool called CAPS Finder, each time I got a different result. I was starting to think that this program had it out for me so I enlisted my fellow classmates to redo the same search with the parameters I had already set. Sadly, out of 5 TAPoR users we did not get the same results.

After weeks spent slaving over the computer, TAPoR and I had come to a working agreement where it would give me result 50% of the time. This is was huge step into realizing that this whole thing may not be so bad.

Qualitative Research

I have a soft spot for Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I have studied this play over 7 times in an academic setting and every single time I find something new, interesting and different. While the quantitative results I got did shock me and helped me find new undiscovered information, I find you still need a human eye/reader. For example, a quote said by the Queen in Act 3,“madness. There is something in his soul..”. TAPoR pulled up the term madness using the concordance tool but it is up to the reader to figure out the significance of this line. Words are mean to be interpreted and a computer cannot help us with this process. It’s a human reader to text process that is the key to figuring out Shakespeare.

Quantitative using TAPoR

This section I will need to break up into two parts, the pros and the cons. Using digital analysis tool was something new for me to experience and it took a while to succumb to the idea.  So the only way to get my full feelings of the program was to break it up.

The Pros

            Within my research I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when I started looking to the senses and their meanings with Act 3. The senses I took an interest in are: eyes, ears, tongue, sight. I did start the process in a qualitative matter but with out the help of digital humanities would not have found something that I have never realized before. By doing my searches I found that all the senses were connected and used interchangeably within Hamlet. Noticing the patterns of the words and how they were used made my research move forward with ease. This also pains me to say, but I was surprised how efficient and quick it found these patterns. It is a tedious task to do it with the human eye and you will miss a word or two in the process.

I also had the time to research other things using my other textbooks from history and the Internet to figure out the meanings of these words in a historical context. (This was only possible with all the extra time I had, since I was not hunched over a text book for hours on end). The results took to a whole different level of literary analysis, and a greater, deeper meaning of Hamlet.

The Cons

            Well, what can I say? The list of cons dealing primarily with TAPoR is long and tedious but since I have already talked about that, I will list other things in my findings. My number problem I have had with just the digital humanities is that the computer program takes away from the text. I found the more I got into the research aspect using TAPoR the less and less I used my hard copy of Hamlet. There it was, laying on my desk besides my computer, looking lonely and unused. It was a very heart wrenching moment when I realized that in 3 full weeks I have not opened the actual texts onceMaybe I am old fashioned, traditional, or whatever you want to call it but isn’t the text the most important part of literary analysis?

Another issue I found was TAPoR was not the only program with inconsistent results. We used five different programs (Voyeur, Monk, WordHoard, and WordSeer) and every single one gave us different results. It was hard to trust which program was right or not so we just put all our results into the our research and hoped for the best.


Andrew Prescott compared the birth of digital humanities as necessary as the “industrial revolution and the birth of print.” It may very well be and I honestly do like it for certain things.  It is definitely a time saver with the ability to search times quicker then the traditional methods. It can pull out patterns, words and phrases that a human cannot do with only missing something while doing so, and with such certainty. However, I have said this in my pervious blogs, this is a tool NOT a replacement to traditional methods of reading and analyzing a text. No computer or program can show you the beauty of these words put together on a page. Without the reader we cannot get the meaning that the author was trying to get across nor can we understand the text fully when we know that Shakespeare used the word “mad” a lot.

I have come a long way since the start of the semester. Digital humanities and programs will be a tool I will use as I proceed through my degree but it will not replace my book and pen. This has been an experience for me that I will cherish for all I have learned. I hope you all enjoyed the process as much as I have! Enjoy


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Robert S. Miola. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2011. Print.

Prescott, Andrew. Blog- http://digitalriffs.blogspot.ca/2012/01/electric-current-of-imagination-what.html?showComment=1334169799982


Eyes, Madness and Soul- TAPoR

For my last and final blog post, I cannot seem to hide my excitement about breaking my relationship with TAPoR. Our Hamlet and Ophelia type relationship is not a healthy one; it is filled with a lot of anger and resentment. It is really for the best that we part ways so we can live out our literary careers in peace and happiness. It is a good day. J

As it is my last blog, my team and I have decided to dissect Hamlet’s mental state. I have stated previously that Act 3 is where all the action happens and where most of the “is he crazy or not” debate occurs. In Act 1 Hamlet says he intends to put on an “antic disposition” but as the play progresses, the debate I struggle with is, “has he gone mad?”

This debate is a very iconic and most studied while reading Hamlet. That being said, I put TAPoR to work to see if we can pin point his madness and is downward spiral. When I ran searches for “madness” and “mad” in my concordance tool the words that surrounded the word were mainly questions about his madness. The main point I have picked out from my searches is that not only the reader is stumped by Hamlet’s madness but the characters are as well.

Another point of interest for me was that “madness” and “mad” was also fallowed by the word “soul”. This is my second step into the process, looking up “soul”, “heaven” and “devil” or any words of the like. This is search made me do a happy dance while my results were something completely unexpected. I found (or I’ll let TAPoR get the credit for this one) that madness and mad is fallowed by soul. A HUGE point of interest for me since, mental health or any type of health care, came after Shakespeare’s time. Madness is linked to soul, which is linked to devil or heaven, which is linked back to madness. Yes, I know… a lot of links to fallow but once you are on a roll, you just, well, roll.

Since I am on a roll now I keep pulling at the treads and it is going somewhere fantastic!!! (This needs a second happy dance). From what I already know from my previously taken history classes, is that mental health was seen as a foreign entity that possessed the body. It was not commonly believed that a person had problems with his head or was sick, it was another entity disrupting ones body. The line that doesn’t speak it clearer is, “…madness. There is something in his soul…”

Another link between soul and madness is eyes. This word is used 7 times within the act and for me that is significant. Most of us hear the saying that the “eyes are the window to the soul” and by my research I think Shakespeare was playing with that saying. I found it extremely fascinating that “eyes” came up during Act 3 scene 4. This part of the act is when I actually think Hamlet breaks into real madness, and the eyes are used over and over while he is talking to Gertrude.

After weeks of work, blood, sweat and tears I can say I did learn a lot from this experience. Going into a class where computers play a main role was terrifying to say the lease but on the other hand extremely rewarding after my nerves have calmed down. My last search did show me that it is a lot easier and quicker doing these searches by a computer then by hand. That being said, I still am working on at least getting on a friends status with TAPoR. Enjoy

Honest and Virtue, That is the Question- TAPoR

I may have spoken too soon when I have say TAPoR and I were friends. It obviously did not cherish our relationship as much as I have because since last post it is making my life miserable again. I am starting to feel like TAPoR and I have a Hamlet Ophelia type relationship. It works well when it is one on one, but when I need results for my group work, it plays hard to get. Therefore, by the end of term I may be singing odd songs and handing out flowers as well.

This week, and for this blog post, my group and I have decided to look at Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s relationship and what their relationship means to them. Their relationship has always been of interest to me because of how Ophelia is a pawn within a scheme set out by her father and Claudius. My first step is not by using the program, I am old school and I need to read the act with a pen in one hand and sticky notes in the other. I think that will be a hard habit for me to break, and it may take years to break it, if at all. After entirely reading Act 3, I pulled out the thematic cluster’s I saw and wanted to have a closer look at them. That’s where good ol’ TAPoR came in to play.

When reading the act, I came across that honest/honesty was used interchangeably with virtue/virtuous. That being said, I also noticed that Shakespeare used honest and virtue as a connotation to virginity. So TAPoR played a huge role in listing how many times and when honest and honesty was used. Yes, TAPoR worked at that time, but unfortunately, I did not receive the same results on each tool I used.

Highlighter tool gave me this for honest…

And this for honesty….

Concordance gave me these results..

So the results are not even close to being the same, which makes me frustrated and itching to go through the entire act with a highlighter and my own eyes again. After taking deep breaths and deciding that I will look at the different word and hope my results are more consistent, I looked at virtue, virtues, and virtuous. That just wanted to make me chuck my lap top at a wall or just sit and cry in a corner. My results were more inconsistent then when I looked at honest.

Highlighter gave me….

Concordance gave me this…

Yes, that is a blank page and an error message. I truly thought TAPoR were passed the error message stage but on the happy note, that’s an error message I have not received before. So I guess TAPoR is still keeping me on my toes on what results or error messages I will get.

After my miniature melt down, I asked my group members to use there tools and send me the results for virtue, virtues, and virtuous. Again, none of the results are the same.

Between the other tools we got these results…

With the second post of phase 2 almost done I am glad that I am getting results. On the other hand, I am extremely frustrated that using TAPoR my results that I am getting are not consistent. I am even more frustrated that none of the other tools gave me the same results. At can just hope that these programs will convince me that a pen and highlighter is old school, and this is the new way. That is still to be seen…

Third Time the Charm

Going into the second phase, I feel more at ease then my first couple forays into the blogging universe/ the digital humanities world. I am excited to see how these tools will work together and how we can implement all our tools on our specified act of Hamlet. I was pleasantly surprised that my group was given Act Three of Hamlet, which, in all honesty is where all the “good stuff” happens. This act has the “get tee to a nunnery” scene, the play in which Claudius is called out for the murder of King Hamlet, and my favorite, the killing of Polonius(3.1.120). If it was up to me, he would be a goner a lot earlier but the “O, I am slain” makes up for the long awaited death(3.4.24).

The learning curve this semester has been immense, especially due to the fact that I have been thrown into a world I knew nothing about. Since my last post, I tried out running TAPoR on a different server, and the class was right, FireFox is WAY better then safari. My other newest finding is, that TAPoR is way friendlier when using XML. (Whatever that is).  For some reason I find that it is very picky when it comes to file type. I have been gaining a lot of new information about TAPoR, I had become friends with TAPoR. Being friends and working on our relationship together is going to help immensely when it comes to this phase. My mantra is now, “ I will be a fully functioning and capable member of my team”.

Going into this phase, I believe my tool will be the jumping off spot for the rest of the tools. I can do things like Highlighter, and CAPS finder that can help by pulling out certain themes easier then the rest. After talking to my group, I also realized that my extractor tool will come in VERY handy (that one tool still does not want to give in to my newly acquired computer skills). We also figured out that the extractor tool is the only tool that can break up the different speeches of different characters from all of the tools we have to our disposal.

There is not much I can say beside that; I am looking forward to working all our tools into Hamlet. I finally see the sun and feel that this go around is going to be much less frustrating and more rewarding. It might just be spring or end of semester or both but TAPoR and I can be friends.

My group and I have not had very much time in regards to figuring what new information we want to pull out of our act in Hamlet. So instead of me posting questions and queries I would like to research, I will post screen caps of TAPoR and I working together! YAY!




TAPoR vs Teresa: Round 2

From my first foray into TAPoR, I was left feeling extremely discouraged and very frustrated. Being the only group member without yielding any results besides, finding a few capital letters, made me feel a bit heartbroken. I do, however, have to announce that this second go with TAPoR has been showing me positive results. I still cannot say, that TAPoR and I are on great terms but we have definitely made progress in our relationship. Instead of only getting error messages 100% of the time, I now get them about 50%. I mark that as a huge step in the right direction.

The very aesthetically pleasing word cloud and I have become fast friends. It always works without error and I can manipulate it by taking out words like: “the”, “and” and “but”. The word cloud tool does exactly what it sounds. It makes a pretty colorful cloud with different sized words. The words that are most commonly used in the text are bigger then the words who were not used. This tool is definitely a tool to use as a jumping off spot at the beginning of your research. I was able to pull important words from this and then using the same words to look at a deeper meaning within the text.


This, unfortunately, is where my progress stopped since the other tools still refuse to succumb to my persistence. As I was working through my problems with the program, I have found some interesting facts of the good parts of the program and its limitations. The most important piece of information I have gathered is that TAPoR is a program that you need to use more then one of its many tools. By just looking at a word cloud, the research and information you gather is unfortunately useless, unless you utilize the other tools. Concordance, and collocates are tools (if they would cooperate) I would use next to continue on my research path. I have yet to get them to cooperate but I am sure that they will cave eventually.

From working within my group another piece of information I have gathered. That is, no matter who, when and how, it is hard to get the same results as your team member. Matt and I noticed that we had different findings using the caps finder. Even though we both used the same version of Hamlet (the URL from the Hamlet blog) we ended up having different results. Being curious, we decided to do a group caps finder. We used the same tool, at the same time, with the same URL, to see what results we will gather. Not only did our computers lag but, only 2 out of 5 group members gathered the same results. Thus being said, I only found this a small frustration then my initial run of the program last week.

Besides the caps finder giving us different results, I find TAPoR starting to work well with digitally analyzing text for us, beginner digital humanist. This as a good method to quickly pull out quantitative results without having to slave over an act; saving us time without the need of our trusty highlighter, highlighting the all common themes and words. Who knew a computer program can do that for you in a blink of an eye? However, this tool, to me, is still only a supplement that can help your research NOT the substitute to the actual text.

For now, I believe I am on the right track and I am finding some results. Questions are definitely being answered and work is moving in the right direction. Feeling more confident then before, I see the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

Some comedic relief for the computer discouraged, here are some error messages I have received since my last post. Enjoy 🙂

Trials and tribulations of Tapor: Teresa Vs Tapor

Going into this project I am filled with anxiety and a little bit of trepidation. Not only because it is a huge chunk of my final grade but also, because I am completely computer illiterate. Knowing that I have been taking out of my comfort zone made for some short nights and restless sleep.

TAPor is the program I was assigned to work with to analyze Hamlet Act 3.4. As I am the type of person whom needs the most user friendly program to work with, and Tapor is definitely not one of them. My initial goal was to use the program to figure out if Hamlet can see the ghost of King Hamlet or, if in Act 3.4, he had a psychotic break and is on a downward spiral. My initial goal was quickly switched to, “ how to use this program?”

My group and I had sat down to get acquitted with TAPor and play around to see how it all worked. I am sure TAPor could smell my fear because while everyone in my group were getting results, all I kept getting was error messages. It was funny at first until I did not have a positive result during this stage, then humor turned into frustration. The main thing I did realize during this play around stage is that TAPor has a ridiculous assortment of error messages and it is very rare to get the same one more then once. I banged my head against the desk and wished that the developers put more time into making their program user friendly, then devising a wide array of error messages.

I am not one to give up so I took a day’s break to clear my head and start fresh. Thinking that if I were not afraid of it, it would play nice and give me results. Boy, was I ever wrong. I continued with my original question of, is Hamlet actually crazy in the scene with a small hope that a days break TAPor will work. I enlisted my fellow group members to help me isolate words and themes to find patterns and yet again, all I seem to get was an error messages. From the dozens I have received I have compiled a few of my favorites that are worth noting.


With my lack of computer skills crushed and my large part of my final grade on the line I refuse to cower to a computer program. I stopped trying to isolate certain words to help me figure out my problem and started to see if any of the many tools would work. After what seems like days, TAPor cooperated with me! It gave me a list of words that have capital letters.


How will this help me, or anyone else, trying to analyze Shakespeare? I do not know, but it was a start on the right path. This was a small victory against a computer program that wants to make me sweat about a subjected that I have always loved and enjoyed.

Once I got my list of capitalized words, I could not help but notice that, while some people would think the interface was dull and lacking color, I liked the simplicity. It may have only been my reaction after days of struggling to get the program to work or if I genuinely liked the look. It is definitely way too early for me to decide at this point.  But as I continue the daunting task of working with/against TAPor, I hope my progress improves and that I can proudly say I have mastered TAPor by the end of term.