ENGL 203 FINAL BLOG POST
*Note throughout this Blog I will be associating Text Analysis Tools and their ability or lack of to connect with text with comparison to Monk. Since I worked with Monk for the year I feel the most comfortable associating this post and assumptions towards it. No assumptions are made about any other tools since I have not worked in depth with them and am not as familiar with them*
Well this is the final blog post, the last and final one of Hamlet in the Digital Humanities. Since the final blog post is a “biggie” I figured I should write on something that I have been constantly thinking about since the beginning of the course: quantitative and qualitative analysis. The digital Humanities is all about looking at things from a computer data based perspective to find more ways we can locate information or otherwise known as quantitative information. Which is a different perspective than what people are used to which is qualitative analysis. This year we analyzed Hamlet qualitatively and quantitatively and looked at how the two relate or compare to one another. It seems to be an upcoming trend to look at text through computers and I was wondering what this effect may lead to the original qualitative analysis of texts and how the two differ all together. I believe that with new technology in the digital humanities arising this may create “silences” in meaning and understanding of a text and relation to it similarly on how digital texts have created “archival silences” in that the more digital we become with text analysis the less involved we seem to get with the text and understanding it from its original roots.
“Archival Silences”. Where do I begin to explain the tricky term of Archival Silences… I guess that depends on which definition you are looking at. In Kate Theimer’s Blog on “The Two Meanings of Archival Silences and Their Implications”Â Â she describes archival silences many different ways
1. Gaps or “silences” in a body of original records
2. reference to materials that are not represented in the digital collections that have been marked up in ways that make them useful for research
3. ways in which voices from the past are silenced
4. those materials that have been digitized and made available online
After looking at these definitions and looking at my blog and what I wish to write about I decided that in terms of this paper the silences which I refer to would be the gaps or voices that are lost in the Digital Humanities Text Analysis tools, and the implications digitizing has had on our bodies of work.
Overall I felt that with the Digital Humanities and the text analysis tools there seemed to be a lack of absence or silence within the association to the original text. I felt that even though in our class we spent time looking at Hamlet on paper and looking at Hamlet through a text analysis tool I still had a lot of difficulty connecting the two together. Even so after phase two I was able to relate the two together, however I found that each part could stand on its own.Â What I mean by this is when you read Hamlet on paper you are able to understand it and pick up on certain themes and ideas and don’t need the digital version of Hamlet to grasp at it. I also found this the same with the digital version in that even though with text analysis tools it takes the text and picks it apart it looks at it a completely different way than a human does, in that it looks at things from a quantitative measure as in numbers, language and how often something may appear.
Even though the digitized version of the text looks at the text through a different aspect than what a person would do it looks at the text from a different level and thus the original story and themes that we pick up can be silenced. In that the digitized version of the text only looks at the text with aspects of words and numbers not a thought provoking questioning or understanding that we get from reading it. Thus we can say if you follow this logic that Digital Text Analysis tools themselves have created their own silences in that they are unable to pick up the human perception.
Hamlet and Text
To further test my question about archival silences that are created within text analysis tools I decided to look at the text that we have looked at throughout the whole year: Hamlet. I decided to do something basic and look at a common theme found throughout Hamlet which is “madness”. I wanted to see the ways in which human interpretation or qualitative analysis found this theme.
The theme of madness can be easily seen through one of Shakespeare’s best attributes: Language. Shakespeare has a very rich language which is layered with meaning on top of meaning. The ability to look at language, associate it and read into its many different meanings can be seen as a humanistic qualitative feature in that it human emotion and understanding is able to look at this language and see its many layered meanings as well as the association and feelings behind it. An example of madness can be seen when Ophelia has lost herself in Act 4 and the king states:”Poor Ophelia/Divided from herself and her fair judgment, /Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts”Â (4.5.80-81). This quote shows how the madness has “divided” Ophelia, meaning that she is split off into two separate parts, her body as well as “her fair judgment”. We can see that her “fair judgment” indicates her senses in that she is no longer associated towards it. In turn it has turned her into a “beast” meaning that she is considered nothing more than an animal and that without her judgment Ophelia is seen as animalistic. This also gives reference to the idea of humanity and what makes us a person. Here King Claudius suggests that Ophelia’s reason and “judgment” make her human and without them she is nothing more than an animal. We must also consider the word “lost” in that it associates that she had it and now it is gone. It also gives light to the idea that she may find herself again, and there is hope that Ophelia may return to the girl she was and that she will no longer be considered animalistic this may also convey a sense of remorse in King Claudius’s choice of words in that he is hopeful that Ophelia will get better and he feels sorry for what has happened to her and the condition that she is now in. This can also be seen by how King Claudius used the word “Poor” as he associated a sense of sorrow towards her and apathy for what has come to her in that the madness has turned her into something she is not. Overall this quote shows how “madness” is not only found but is also described and related to in that day and age.
We can see through this brief analysis of text that there are many layers within Hamlet and by going through and taking apart the language bit by bit we can sense a greater understanding of not only the character Ophelia but as well as associations with how people were viewed if they were seen as mentally unstable as well as character feelings and associations towards one another. This two lined sentence in Shakespeare speaks volumes in references and meaning. It also gives the reader an association of feeling, understanding and a sense of emotion tied towards his words. On the other hand a computer would have no way of analyzing text through this deep of a method.
Gaps Created Because of the Digital Humanities
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â For this past semester I have been looking at Hamlet within a text analysis towards Monk. If you have read any of my previous Blogs you probably realize that Monk is a frustrating tool which doesn’t tend to cooperate often but it is still a text analysis tool.
Text Analysis tools are used to gather a greater strength or grasp of ideas within a text. Text analysis tools basically do what the name says, they analyze text. Within each tool it took the text of Hamlet and analyzed it in its own specific way and found out some interesting things associated with it. This is where I think the silences begin. For me working with Monk it was difficult associating the text with the findings. This can be seen with the concordances in that it shows you the word that you are looking for but it does not pertain where in the text it was said, as well as who said it.
Here you see I have looked up the word “madness” in that Monk displays how often the word madness appears in the text. Although this may show that madness appears 22 times in the play. It also shows the phrase that madness was found in.
To me this is a big problem since as a class we were relying on these tools to give us information about the text. When it did give information I found that it had little association or connection to the text itself. I could see where Monk had found it, but since I had no idea of the origin I had no concept of its meaning and thus I had not gained a greater strength nor grasp of the text itself. Even though you are able to look at the words and see the context which they fit in you can’t relate it back to Hamlet because you don’t know its origin or its speaker. This shows the silences in that there is a gap of information that is not being received or understood, but it just gives you data. I know to try and fully understand what Monk is trying to say about Madness I will have to go back to the text and sift through it myself to know who said it where it was said in the play.
This is also shown with Monks unique tool Naye Bayes in the decision tree which picks up the theme that you have chosen and sees how confident it can be found throughout the text.
Once again I am shown data and information, but I have no idea why these words are associated with it or the context that they are spoken in. Even though Naye Bayes does show you the common words associated with it, it does not show you the ways in which the tool picked up the certain idea or theme. This shows me a lack of proof of what Monk actually found and how it can be useful. It leads once more to a silence which just shows data and information but lacks an actual connection towards the text and thus the reader.
In phase two my group and I decided to try and make a connection with the text towards the theme of spy and surveillance which we found extremely prevalent in act two by reading. This was a way for us to try and bridge this connection between qualitative and quantitative text while focusing on the idea of erasing the association of silences that some tools created. I found this to be an extremely helpful way of bridging the gap between human and computer association. I did feel that for the use of our presentation was for the main concept of trying to strengthen the theme we have picked up on and have found. I believe with the combination of all 5 tools we still would have picked up the theme of spying and surveillance if none of us had ever read Hamlet or understood the theme found within the text. However I am unsure of how well we would have been able o understand and grasp the strong concept of rich language that Shakespeare uses. As mentioned in one of my previous Blogs some words which we convey as strong themes throughout the play don’t even show up. The language used in a specific context seems to hold importance in the human understanding where a computer may lack or add “silences” to.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Overall I felt that the text analysis tools did create “silences” that were not included to or pertained to the text. When looking at both text and tool I did feel like there was still some aspects that were not being fully understood even though the computer gave me an answer. The best way I can describe it is solving a math problem by hand and understanding all the parts and particulars to it where as if I picked up a calculator I would have the answer starring straight at me in the face and I have no idea or concept of how it got there. This makes me wonder of our future and understanding of books and novels. Will there be a “calculator phase” that will just show us the answers but we have no idea or concept of how they got there? Can we really consider this diving deeper into a text when it just shows us the answer or tells us how often something appears?
A main point I saw throughout the whole experience was the point and validity to quantitative analysis. Yes it is interesting to see things broken down in a numbers based only perspective but I still felt that you had to rely heavily on the text itself to fill in the “gaps” or “silences” that were created because of the fact that it is taking a text that we understand qualitatively and putting it into a quantitative format.
Now don’t get me wrong about the tools in that they are all useless and evil, that is definitely not the case. I am merely suggesting that in looking into this new era of digitizing we still need our original texts to fill in the blanks that we don’t really understand. In that text analysis tools become a help towards our understanding but not a dependence. I am a strong believer in the original form of understanding text. I think it is important to go through a text and pick it out the old fashion way similarly to how you won’t understand someone until you have walked in their shoes. To me the text is the shoes and for me to fully understand and comprehend something you need that text. Without it you may have grasped a concept or idea that is being presented but there will be gaps.
What the future Holds
Kate writes on how these archival silences have had implications on ourselves and how eventually one day “that which is not available digitally with become equated with that which does not exist” . I guess you can say we have similar fears in that one day there may be a time when text analysis tools have taken over the concept of reading and understanding a book the old fashion way.
This can also relate to the technology today in that there are so many different ways that people communicate with one another but don’t at the same time. If you look at texting, Facebook chat, or even talking on the phone (which seems old fashion now a days) they all convey the idea of finding and passing information to one another fast while missing the human connection of emotion. There are countless times when someone will get mad over some computerized message because the human connection and emotion behind it is lost similarly to the silences found within text analysis in that the deeper meaning and context is essentially lost due to this phase of understanding and processing at a fast pace.
I can’t help but wonder if this will happen to our books and if they will “be or not to be” (3.1.58) meaning if they will be able to survive in an ever expanding digital world. I hope we don’t lose sight of the text and what it has to offer us because without it there will be a million unheard, unrecognized voices that eventually will go silent forevermore one day.
Works Cited List
Shakespeare, William.Â Hamlet. Stephen Greenblat, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Kathrine Eisaman Maus: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print. The Second Norton Edition.