One last thing…

Honestly, before I began English 203 this semester I had never heard  the term Digital Humanities before (crazy, I know!).  After taking a four month long course on the Digital Humanities, I can say that this form of learning will most likely be the future for most English majors. Using the internet to write blogs, show visuals, and share information within seconds is an incredible way to spread new information worldwide. Within the course of a year I have skyped with a journalist in New York, corresponded with a program developer at Berkley University, and reviewed an article by a writer at a University in Ireland; all in an English classroom in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This type of connection is what has changed the humanities to a digital atmosphere, collaborating with individuals worldwide. My argument for this post stems from the question: How do the digital humanities strengthen our knowledge of previously read texts?

Have we forgotten about Shakespeare? 

For our course on the digital humanities we definitely did something unique. Reading a play written by William Shakespeare in 1600, and using a computer program tool designed for the 21st century to analyze it. Every English major, scholar, or high school student, knows the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  When we were asked to once again analyze Hamlet, I was sceptical at the possible outcomes. Honestly, how many times can you go over a play and still find new information? Let’s just say, I was wrong. Over the course of thirteen weeks, I learned more about Hamlet then I ever knew before. It was not just the story and theme of the play, but the writing, word choice, and context of words used. Every aspect of analyses of this play was done online, by use of the digital humanities. Now I am not saying that I never had to use the hard copy of the play, because I did.  As I mentioned in my fifth blog post I do not think it would be possible to analyze a play—especially Shakespeare—without having read the actual text. Yes, you could extract the main themes, and guess a basic plot line based on the word and character usage, but reading the play is the only way to have all of the background information needed to understand it.

We began the course by simply reading Hamlet individually and discussed our findings in class. Once again I was shocked how much new information I was learning from my classmates. Group discussions took place and we came up with an incredible amount of new insights into Hamlet. Using evidence from the play these are just some of the ideas we came up with:

  • At first glance Gertrude comes off as a minor character with little personality. However she is surrounded by a number of questions which make her a major influence on the plot of the play. Why can’t she see the Ghost? Did she marry Claudius for love or power? What is her relationship with Hamlet, besides being his mother?
  • Characters use different words, comparisons, and sentences in their own unique way. For example Laertes often associates with the body and soul. When speaking to Ophelia he states: “…safety and health of this whole state…Unto the voice and yielding of that body/Whereof he is the head,” (1.3.20-23)
  • Hamlet often speaks of life, death, heaven, and hell, especially during soliloquies. Could these speeches foreshadow the events of the play?

“O all you host of heaven, O earth—what else?—And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart, and you, my sinews, grow not instant old/But bear me swiftly up. Remember thee?” (1.5.92-95).

Okay, so now we know the play and have analyzed it using nothing but our brains and a good old-fashioned book. That being said, how can our knowledge be strengthened by the digital humanities?

My stellar highlighting skills

WordSeer and the Digital Humanities

For the second part of the course we were split into groups and were assigned digital humanities tools designed to analyze texts. My tool was WordSeer, a Berkeley created program with multiple features used for analyzing Shakespeare. For me—or anyone not familiar with text analysis programs—beginning a presentation based on a computer program is kind of intimidating. I did not know where to begin, so I started playing around with the site and its capabilities with Hamlet. Not to sound too humble or anything, but soon enough I became a pro at using WordSeer. The interface is simple to use and understand, Shakespeare’s entire corpus is readily available, and the collections function allows you to save your work frequently and efficiently.  All of these features and detailed descriptions can be found in my first blog post: Could WordSeer be the simplest word analyzing program?

Now to discuss what I actually discovered using WordSeer.

All of us who have read Hamlet know most of the main themes: betrayal, revenge, and madness. But how can we prove these are themes? How many times are the words revenge or madness even mentioned in Hamlet? This is obviously not something that can easily be done using a highlighter. Why not use a digital tool that includes word counts, frequencies, and visuals to represent information in a different way? WordSeer has all of these functions including the ability to isolate and analyze a single scene or act. Very convenient!

So, once again, how can you tell if something is a common theme in a text using a digital tool? You find the word frequency of course! I think every group at some point searched for the word revenge in Hamlet using their digital tools. Finding the main themes of a play is essential when analyzing a text, and being able to isolate those words is pretty important. Digital tools are created to find these words within seconds.

Digital Humanities Now

In Mike Cosgrave’s blog post, A Broader Digital Humanities, he asks three questions based on the perspective of the student: How do digital tools enhance research led pedagogy? How do digital tools facilitate research led ‘peeragogy’? and What new questions can I ask using digital tools? As an English student I feel as if I can answer these questions honesty and accurately.

  1. How do digital tools enhance research led pedagogy?

This was a question I was trying to answer over the course of the semester. I also think this blog —and most of my other posts—does a good job of explaining it. We began the course by finding new and interesting facts about Hamlet through the digital tools we were assigned. This led to new discoveries and easier findings then just reading through the text. For example we were able to find out that the word know appears in Act Two of Hamlet 35 times. How long would it have taken if we were just using the text itself? Being able to search for words within a text and find them with the click of a button is pretty incredible compared to the hours it would take to find them on your own. These tools allow students to look at literature differently: in terms of quantitative versus qualitative and objective versus subjective views.  In conclusion, digital tools enhance learning by cutting down the amount of time it could take to actually do research and spend more time on the actual assignment/question.

2. How do digital tools facilitate research led ‘peeragogy’?

First of all I looked up the word “peeragogy” with no results (maybe someone should add it to Wikipedia? Make some money off the invention of a new word?). What I am assuming Mike Cosgrave meant by this term is student-led research and student-led research questions (feel free to correct me if I am wrong!). For me this question is easy to answer. We worked on two group projects this semester, both—for the most part—led by the students. We came up with our own questions for each presentation and—based on our tools—what we wanted to focus on. For these reasons using a digital tool helped our group collaboration because we were able to share our information online and each find different results.  To conclude, digital tools can facilitate student based research by simplifying the research process and broadening the scope of the information found and shared.

3.What new questions can I ask using digital tools?

One of the first things I discovered when using WordSeer was that no question was too broad and no answer too narrow. The possibilities of just using WordSeer are endless, let alone the four other text analyzing tools we researched. One of the main differences I found using these prgrams was the shift from qualitative thinking to quantitative thinking. I am going to re-use a picture I used on my previous post because it does a great job of explaining what I am talking about (and it looks pretty!):

From Mercedes Benz commercial

To sum everything up, the digital tools used in the digital humanities establish new questions based on a different way of thinking: more left-brain than right-brain theory, data versus opinion, and numeric versus artistic.

So, to answer your question Mike, yes I think the sciences use digital tools for data and research; the humanities are using this technology in a different way. To come up with new ideas, find information quicker, and present our findings in a different way than the past thousand or so years. This is what the digital humanities are based on and this is what humanities and social science classes have to look forward to.

Conclusion

So is this the future of the digital humanities? One which includes both social sciences and science courses?  Could the future of paperback books be in danger? Since basically everything can now be done using technology, why would anyone need a copy of a text to physically hold and read, as opposed to getting several versions of the same text online? As I finish my final blog post of this course I have come to two conclusions regarding the digital humanities and English courses. Firstly, if everything is moving away from books and towards technology, are the digital humanities the only way English courses can stay relevant and available? Secondly, with all the research and analysis of material needed in humanities classes, are the digital humanities just a faster way of gaining the same information? The content is already available, but the time we have to find it is not. I have no explanations to either of these questions, but I am sure within the next few years we will all get our answer.

The future Will?

References: 

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

Thanks to: Mike Cosgrave and Aditi Muralidharan

 

 

 

Google Doc. God Send

Margaret Meade Said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Obviously she was referring to Digital Humanities! The Second Phase of this project has brought together five “experts” with a common goal: Act one Hamlet…and world domination.

 

 

 

 

 

But seriously, through my research of Act 1 Hamlet, I have come across some interesting results.  As mentioned in a previous post of mine, we (my group) decided to focus on
character development and foreshadow in Act 1.  From there we divided up the characters we viewed to be the most significant.  Through my own research of Horatio’s role in Hamlet (exclusively using Wordseer), I came up with some interesting results.  However my findings were only compounded and made even more insightful by incorporating other Digital Humanities tools in the search process. Using Wordseer, I had previously discovered that one of the words commonly used/associated with Horatio is “overlooked”. This is fascinating to me because of how quite literally, Horatio is absent throughout the middle of the play (with the exception of a few line)

Taking the discovery further, I discussed my findings and plans for future investigation with my phase two teammates (Ruby, Kate, Dayna and Amy).  We call this part of phase two “filling in the holes” When we had reached the limit of our own tools capabilities, but still had questions, we referred to each others tools in search of answers.

To accommodate this element of our research, we (or Dayna) decided to create a Google Doc. where each of us would list our tools, and their available functions.  THIS WAS AWESOME! When I hit a road block with Wordseer all I had to do was pull up the Google Doc. and scan through the other tools capabilities. From there I contacted the “expert” according to what specific search I needed.

This is where the Screen shot should
be…but I had some technical difficulties logging on…

Despite our regular and productive lab/group meetings, having the Google Doc. available 24 hours a day made any independent research easy!Up until this point in our Act 1 Hamlet project, most of the research had been onour own. Individual searches on individual characters. Easy. Moving forward to the collaborative stage of phase 2, I found the searches not only easier but much more effective! Let the filling in begin!

Intrigued by my results of Horatio and the word “overlooked” I decided I had to pursue this idea further. After checking the Google Doc. I knew Monk was something I would NEVER need…sorry Kate! I did, however, notice that the tool Voyeur had some interesting searches to offer me.  After picking Ruby’s brain and forcing her (to the point of slave labor) to conduct searches for me I/we came away with some interesting visuals which reinforce my theory of Horatio’s “overlook-ed-ness” (neologism?) Anyway…check it out!

 

After taking a look at the shot to the left, you might understand where I am coming from. You can see that Horatio’s largest part in Act 1, then declines rapidly only to return slightly at the end. Does this look like the chart of the “last man standing”? Maybe not. Does this look like the chart of a perhaps “overlooked” character? Maybe.  With this visual, I am trying to prove that as one of, arguably, the most important character in the entire play, his actual presence is minimal.

After gathering this new information, I decided to try to look even further into this idea – look for something even more concrete. Enter TaPor….JUST KIDDING! (I could not find any use for TaPor…relevant to my search…or otherwise. Sorry Amy!) Enter WordHoard! After once again referring to the Google Doc. I knew Dayna was the one to contact next! She explained to me exactly what Wordhoard could do for me and this is the result….

This is also were the screen shot should be…but due to some techincal difficulties it is not…I will be sure to have it by Friday for the presentation!

Everyone knows that charts/graphs can sometimes be misleading in the way information is presented. Between scale(s) and the data itself, it can be difficult to determine the meaning. This is where WordHoard really came through for me! In the above shot, you can see exactly how many words Horatio uses in exactly which scenes/acts!  This is significant to my research because it is concrete and cannot be skewed by scale.

Using Wordseer, WordHoard, and Voyeur, my theory of Horatio’s absence throughout the play is verified how intentional was this choice on Shakespeare’s part? Was he trying to trick his readers/viewers? Think of the first time you read Hamlet. Were you tricked?

On Friday, March, 30, 2012, we, as the Phase 2 Act 1 group will present out individual and collective findings. As mentioned by Dayna in a previous group meeting, the difference between phase one and two is the collaborative effort. In phase one, the class attempted to analyze 3.4 Hamlet, however, could only take their research as far as their tools permitted.  In phase two, we have an expert from each tool to lean on, to cooperate with and to explore Hamlet with. With five extensive Digital Humanities tools at our fingertips, all the searches and all the answers are available to any willing person…or team!

time to wrap this thing up!

It’s hard to believe we are already at our last blog post for Phase 2! The fact that we’ve all had access to 5 different tools for the digital analysis of Hamlet makes me feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface.  There are so many intricacies to these tools we are using (more than any of us can really understand with the limited amount of time we’ve been able to work with them) and it’s difficult to try and reach real in-depth results when we are simply familiar with the tools, not full-out experts.

It has been extremely helpful, however, to have 4 other teammates who can quickly answer the random questions that I throw up in the air just hoping someone will have a solution to.  Because each of us has extra practice with our own tool, we have found that we can help fill in each other’s tools where they seem to be lacking.  For example, Kate will ask, “can anyone search all the lemmas of this word?” and I can eagerly tell her that yes, indeed, WordHoard IS useful for something and that YES, it can search up lemmas!

It has been pretty cool to see where some of our tools align, and where some of them overlap.  We used a GoogleDoc to write down all of the things our individual tools are able to do, so that when we come across a specific need in our research we can check out the GoogleDoc and find out if any of the other tools can help us with our problem.  We have found this to be a pretty helpful way of going about things because without these lists of functions, I would have no idea what to even ask or who to ask about anything, and then we’d be getting nowhere.

So the subject I have been using the tools to study over the past week was how the aspects of the Ghost’s character may have changed from Act 1 to the rest of the play.  Because the Ghost only speaks in 2 scenes total (I figured that out nice and quick thanks to WordHoard) I realized I would need to branch out into the other tools to get some kind of information from these few appearances.  Turns out that Richelle’s tool, WordSeer, and Ruby’s tool, Voyeur, seemed to be of most use to me in addition to my own tool, WordHoard.

To start off, I used WordHoard to see how many times Hamlet talked about/talked to the Ghost.  I got six matches total.

From there, I decided to get help using WordSeer to get some visuals going for myself.  Richelle helped me create a Heat Map for the word “ghost” to see how many times the word even came up in Hamlet.  I got the following result:

As you can see, not only does the Ghost not appear in the last third of the play, but it is not even mentioned.  I got a sense of this from my WordHoard findings, but this visual helped me grasp the effect it had on the rest of the play.  I think the Ghost’s heavy involvement in the first Act really shows what kind of role it played in the story.  The Ghost comes in initially to give Hamlet a mission, lots of conversation is had about the Ghost between Hamlet and his friends, and the Ghost pops back in to check up on Hamlet, reminding him what it was he was supposed to be doing.  After that, the Ghost basically disappears.  Hamlet becomes consumed with what he needs to do, not for the Ghost, but for himself.  The Ghost almost seems to be irrelevant to his thoughts or topic of conversation after that.

Voyeur also gave me a similar result as the Heat Map, further enforcing my inference.  The Word trends function shows that all conversation had about the Ghost completely subside near the end of the play.

As far as the content of conversation surrounding the Ghost is concerned, WordSeer gave me lists of words of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that often occurred nearby the word “ghost”.

As you can see, words such as “life” and “death” occur most often out of any.  “Dead” and “blood” also seem to appear often.  By using this function that WordSeer possesses, it allows readers to find trends through the subjects that would be near impossible to discover without the tool!

Examples such as this have really helped me see what a fresh and important spin digital humanities has on the world of literature.  Tools such as WordHoard, WordSeer, Voyeur, TapOr, and Monk really do open so many doors in terms of research possibilities., things that close reading couldn’t ever really do. I realize this is a fairly new and ever-evolving concept, but I’m excited to see what else can be discovered in years to come in the digital humanities world.

Reading Versus Analyzing

Over the past few months of this course I have been thinking how examining Hamlet through multiple text analysis programs compares to actually sitting down and reading Hamlet. There are definitely some major differences. First of all, a general background of Hamlet—and of Shakespeare’s writing style—is extremely helpful. Knowing and understanding the characters feelings and attitudes becomes quite helpful when generating lists of words each character uses. For example, in the 21st century someone might describe Hamlet as crazy or mentally unstable, yet neither of those words is ever used throughout the entire play. Whereas madness is used a total of fifty times throughout the play, along with words such as: falsehood, jealousy, or likeness. Definitely not something you would know from just reading the play.

My group has also found it important to know the themes within the play before trying to search for specific words. Reading the play allows you to establish themes, whereas the tools just reinforce these themes. In Hamlet, some general themes are uncertainty, madness, and revenge. WordSeer is great at finding occurrences of words and when you already have a general theme these word frequencies become very valuable to analyze a character or specific line.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have a new-found respect for the word tree visualization in WordSeer. I have come to notice its informative values, especially relating to context. Using the word revenge and searching throughout Hamlet, the word tree generated a visual containing the word revenge and all of its occurrences in the play. Clicking on any of the surrounding words connects the sentence to which it belongs to and highlighting it pink/red. I find this visual helpful because instead of just writing out a sentence containing revenge, it shows you what form it is used and can easily be compared to others by following the lines.

The main difference I noted when thinking about this course was the different ways in which a play—like Hamlet—can be interpreted. When I read Hamlet for the first time, I found I imagined the characters, settings, and story in my mind, creating a visual to go by. This is completely different when using these tools. Everything is a calculated answer to a specific question, with the visuals consisting of numbers and frequencies. At times I thought I was in a math class (gasp!). Similar in a way to how each side of the brain functions.

From Mercedes Benz

In regards to our Phase Two projects, my group has began to answer some of the questions previously asked, such as common themes and words associated with those themes. We have picked out specific parts of Act Two, and categorized them into the main themes of the act. Our tools have become useful for finding connections between programs and have begun to overlap and collaborate as one main tool with endless functions. Overall, this phase has brought together everything we have worked on over the course, while creating new ideas about Hamlet.

Flushing Out a Thesis and Scalar Searches: Part 1

I’ve been wondering recently how I’m going to approach my final blog post, or final paper, for this class. I’m not sure what kind of questions I could be asking that would be important enough that it could make up an essay of up to 2500 words. It’s a daunting enough task to come up with a paper this big, but it also counts for a huge chunk of my grade, a chunk of a size I care not to see.

Thinking on what subject I could come up with I thought to simply build on the work I’ve done so far. This idea seemed simple enough, so I went on to look at the blog site and look back at and read my blogs again. Now, for those who’ve not seen my blog posts I’ve written a blog on the relations search in Wordseer, a blog describing the problems wordseer faces and things that can remedie them, and a blog describing the limiting aspects of in which contexts you look at a tool and how that affects the results you get.

Now, the idea behind this last blog post really interests me as a possible starting point for finding an argument to make in my last blog post. So now, through all the rest of my posts I’ll flesh this idea out a little bit more so that I can be prepared for my final paper / post / phase 3.

In Hamlet I’ve begun to experiment with this idea. I’ve searched the word ‘die’ in two different collections of documents of varying sizes. I start in the context of Act 3, Scene 1, which includes Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” speech.

 Searching Hamlet 3.1 with Wordseer

In this scene I found 4 results, which does not offer a very wide opinion of how death and dying is viewed by Hamlet. Instead, this offers a result very specific to the point in time that Hamlet is saying these things. In this case, the results for death show that they are used with the word sleep twice. This is very useful for generating hypotheses or finding points to inspect heavily within Hamlet, but that is not the point here. For now it’s enough to know that these two uses of ‘sleep’ are used in Hamlet’s ‘to be, or not to be’ speech and give a clue as to how Hamlet is viewing death at the time he is giving the speech.

Now, I’ve searched this same word in the larger context of Hamlet, the play, as a whole, and I’ve come up with 17 results.

 

It is important to note that besides the fact that there are more results, and therefore more views on the word itself, there are far more varied results. These results can be used effectively to flesh out the views of death that Hamlet, the play, portrays with ease and with more accuracy. These varied results show more of a varied view of the play. Showing more aspects of the particular personality of the play allows someone to better and more easily come to understand the play.

Now, I’ve done more searches on the play than this, but I’ve run out of time to analyze them, instead I intend to come back to this subject in my next blog and I’ll better explain some of the differences that I’ve found while looking at different scales of a search.

Welcome to our POA/ An Initial Discovery!

My Phase 2 group and I have devised a POA (pronounced poh-ah), this is our Plan of Attack! If you read my most recent post, you know that I had a few concerns about what exactly to analyze in Act One of Hamlet.  After a couple productive group meetings I am feeling good. Ladies and Gentlemen – our POA has been determined.  Ready? Character Development! We decided to tackle this aspect of the play because as Act One analysts, we get to delve into who the characters are presented as in the beginning. Taking this piece of knowledge, we can then compare it to the characters throughout/at the end of the play.  We want to know if the personalities portrayed in the first act of hamlet are a truthful reflection of the characters throughout the play. If not, does something significant happen to change them? What was Shakespeare trying to prove by withholding particular traits of particular characters while exposing others completely? This is exactly what we hope to discover. This is step one of our POA.

To subdivide the extensive research involved in character development, we decided to pick the five characters, or in some cases pairs of characters, we felt serve the most significant roles in the play.  After individually selecting characters to examine in our own expert tools, we are now ready to roll up our sleeves and uncover the dirt (look out Waldo, I am on to you!)

I will be analyzing Horatio, Kate will be analyzing the King and Queen, Ruby has Hamlet (Glare), Amy is looking after Ophellia and Laertes and finally Dayna has The Ghost! With our assigned characters, we are each planning to discover as much as possible under the umbrella of character development in specific regards to Act One.

Although I am still in the preliminary stages of my Horatio-development-act one research, I have already uncovered something pretty cool! So if you just go into your basic search on Wordseer, and type in “horatio” all by itself, when the search results are found, a box will appear at the top of the page with the most commonly used words while referring to your searched word (in my case “Horatio”)

 

Neat - O

 

This is really cool because I view Horatio as the level-headed and perhaps the only sane characters in the entire play. This makes it interesting to see the results. If you look at the screen shot, you will see the results reflect my interpretations of Horatio pretty well.  With words such as “good”, “Heaven”, “see” and “Lord” listed it is hard to not think about the end of the play. How does it all turn out? Well, in a nut shell, he is alive and pretty much everyone else…is not.  Is this coincidence? Or is this something a little amazing that has been delivered through digital humanities. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Another interesting point I found was in the word “overlooked” provided by the list in the above screen shot.  I think this is a little crazy and pretty darn cool…Horatio and overlooked. Are you seeing the connection?! The fact that Horatio is really only in the first and final Acts of the play AND is what we can call “the last guy standing” is a fair observation. Keeping this in mind, the fact that “overlooked” is so common while searching his name is knock-your-socks-off incredible/interesting/awesome! This is shocking because in the play Horatio really is overlooked. WOW.

This is only a peek into the information I know wordseer is holding and I can’t wait to run Horatio/act one through the rest of the functions available with this tool. This is a pretty incredible/exciting way of analyzing. Still not convinced? Think of the first time you read Hamlet, did you know Horatio would be “the last guy standing”? Probably not…but Wordseer did.

Defining Hamlet as a Tragedy, or Lack of One: A Quantitative and Qualitative Endeavour(Phase Two, Blog Post Three)

*Note: Due to time constraints, this is my third blog post due for Monday, March.26, submitted early.

As the basis of my research, regarding the fifth act of Hamlet, I have fixated my efforts around one fundamental underlying question: What is the significance of act five of Hamlet, alone, and how does it define this iconic play as a tragedy? I explored this question in my previous blog posts, however, I will now, through this account, elaborate on how I have further employed my digital tool word seer to pursue a tangible answer to this question. As I continue to familiarize myself with the vast array of possibilities and enticing functions offered by the digital tool word seer, my confidence in digital humanities approaches formulating new conclusions and raising new observations regarding familiar texts is increasing
as well. For instance, now that I am able to segregate just the fifth act of Hamlet,  I am able to isolate it as its own distinct and significant entity, and thus, I am able to produce conclusions and hypotheses regarding the single act alone, as opposed to the entire text—a process not as easily accomplished with traditional text analysis and closed reading. Therefore, in my last post I explained my preliminary trials of inputting words from the fifth act of Hamlet into word seer and observing the returned usage frequency results on the heat map function—results I was highly surprised at—and will, in this post, explore how word seer and its comparative features may be implemented to suggest provocative details about the text, such as sudden escalations of the frequency of a given word at a given instance.

One of my primary considerations, regarding Hamlet, an assertion that I have implied in several of my blog posts, is that the play does not appear to confirm to the superficial niche that tragedies are often classified under, in terms of words used. In my last post, I discussed how words such as “death” “loyalty” and “fall” appear remarkably less frequently than I had initially anticipated, prior to conducting the search of act five in word seer. To exemplify, in terms of word frequencies, that the fifth act of Hamlet is relatively sparse in words that one might expect to pertain to a tragedy, I have included results from a test that I conducted using some of the words that I have previously inputted in a search of the entire play, as well as some new words such as “beast” and “wretch”. Upon viewing the results, one will quickly conclude that Hamlet is lacking in these words, leaving room for qualitative speculation as to why this might be.

The same search conducted, this time using the entire play, returns a greater frequency of the same words, yet, not to an overwhelming extent (the results are featured below). Additionally, in carrying out this test, I have satisfied the aim of my previous blog post, which was to apply word seer to compare the frequency of the same words between the fifth act of Hamlet, and the entire text.

Therefore, one is left to infer that in terms of language, Hamlet is variable from other Shakespearean tragedies. Seeing as to this quality, I am
armed with a more quantitatively geared set of evidence in my argument that the so called “revenge tragedy” isn’t much of a tragedy, after all. Of course, when I refer to the term “tragedy”, my evaluation adheres to Aristotle’s classic conception of the genre:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy#Aristotle. I do acknowledge that I have largely concentrated on this definition of tragedy throughout the entire research process of this course, however, I believe that I am well justified in having done so, as Macbeth and Othello—tragically flawed heroes in possession of Hamlet’s lacking “cue for action”—pay dearly for their mistaken acts, acts of which, unless one considers Hamlet’s accidental slaying of Polonius, are largely missing from the play, and not only that, Hamlet is not the only character to pay the price in the end of play. I have highlighted these details so not as to embark on a subjective tangent about the play’s qualities, but rather, to uncover what details digital tools and word frequencies may aid in identifying. Therefore, in conducting the word frequency tests that I have(using word seer) I have searched for meaningful trends, such as repeatedly recurring words, that could potentially suggest the theme of the text, and thus, I could compare these supposed themes with my own standards of what defines a tragedy in order to assess how well Hamlet conforms to the profile of the genre.

However, despite all of these possibilities, I still have, as of yet, to uncover the significance of  act five, itself. Still, I have employed some new methods, using different features of word seer to establish whether Hamlet himself fits the profile of the tragic hero, especially in the final act of the play. In order to do this, I aimed to see how he was defined by other characters in act five, through inputting Hamlet described as “blank” in the related words feature of word seer, and received the results pictured below:

If I were to evaluate Hamlet’s overall level of compatibility with the conventional tragic hero( such as, for instance, Titus or Macbeth) I would certainly consider these results to deviate from the profile. I would have expected words more in accordance with “vengeful”, “wretched” or “rash”, or perhaps synonyms to these terms. Yet, Hamlet is referred to as “young”, which in itself, is not a sufficient tragic flaw. Therefore, on this very subjective, qualitative basis (as an interpretation of quantitative data) I will conclude that Hamlet is, at the very least, not a well-defined
tragic hero. How does this relate to my original posed question? In actuality, searches such as these have led me a somewhat different direction, however, I do find myself armed with an adequate conclusion to answer my underlying question, which has guided me through this phase of research. How is act five significant from the rest of the play, and how does it define the play as a tragedy? Using evidence from my closed reading I will advocate that the fundamental action and exhilaration of the play culminates into act five, serving to establish it as significant on its own, while I will argue that act five defines the play as a tragedy only through its outcome, and not its other plot elements, or word frequencies. Therefore, once again, I have found that my conclusion formulating process has largely compiled both quantitative and qualitative features, and both data and interpretation, using both my personal perspective regarding my experience with the text, and the numerical patterns achieved through my digital tool to render both generalizations and specific statements about the significance of act five of Hamlet as its own unit.

 

Why, Why, WHY??!!! Wordseer- give me a break will ya!

I found going through Wordseer this time to be frustrating once again! I would say shocker out of sarcasm because it would be something expected (and roll my eyes at the same time)…only this time I wasn’t expecting it. So I’m going to say it was a shocker because I honestly was shocked out of my mind! And that’s NO sarcasm, really! Although I know how to use it, it just so happened that everything I clicked gave me blank pages or no results. I’ve been trying to configure this program for more than an hour and it pains me to say it…I had zero outcomes! It was working so well for me during my phase 1 project that I can’t understand why now I can’t find anything I had found before. I’m still able to make snippets, and find related words or a heat map on one particular word. But I feel like I’m back at square one because it’s not simplifying my results. What I mean is that I can’t figure out how to separate the act, and more specifically- each scene in that act- giving me GENERAL information on the whole play which completely sets me further away from my main objective. I would leave it be, but I know Aditi fixed this issue so I’m determined to use it to my advantage, EVEN IF IT KILLS ME… which it totally is. My objective is to figure out the significance of act 4 giving me clues on words in each scene telling me more about each character and their means and objectives. My whole purpose for this blog was to figure out the relationships of the characters in this part of the play and what words give me that source of information. I’m sorry professor, but I find myself hating computers more and more, and going back to my Hamlet text to find something that Wordseer should have been doing for me.

Aditi, the developer has been great throughout, but I don’t get why it works for me sometimes and leaves me hanging other times. I know what it can do, that’s the thing! Wordseer helps me find amazing things.  For some reason however, the simplest things on Wordseer are causing delays, taking too long to load to find anything because the page has come across an “error.” I’m sure though once I figure out how to fix these little bugs that I will find more of what I’m looking for. It would help if my computer was fast enough and allowed me to visualize just act 4 from the rest of the play.

I know Madelyn, a member from my phase 1 group was able to find helpful insight from Wordseer on a word tree and heat map when it showed a scene in her act alone. I’m hoping she’ll be able to show me (or whoever in my previous group) what I’m missing, whether it’s a step or if I’m clicking the wrong things. Once they show me, I know it will be so much better where I can use all of Wordseer’s capabilities for my act and see how Shakespeare differentiates act 4 from the rest of the play. As mentioned before in my last blog, I wanted to find specific words that each character says and find related words to know what they really mean (going to the “backstairs world”) and seeing if I was right in knowing their fake and honest relationships.

I guess the most frustrated part for me is knowing that I am getting behind the rest of my group. They have information on what their programs have offered on act 4, where I’m still trying to figure out why I can only seem to read Hamlet from the corpus and that’s it. The funny thing is that this time, it didn’t even allow me to create a collection, and when the box appeared to let me add act 4 to it, I checked the collection box to find it empty. Aaargh! I need to figure out what’s going on with Wordseer so that I can properly include my input with the rest of my group and determine how we’ll organize our presentation on act 4 depending on what each program offers us. How am I supposed to give feedback on a certain character when I can’t even find the significance of act 4- making me unable to find anything useful for that character in act 4. This is so messed up! Phase 1 Wordseer group- I desperately need your help! Phase 2 group, please be patient with me.

“Your search returned: 1345 results” Um, what?!

By now everyone knows that WordSeer has many useful functions, most of which have to do with word frequencies and finding words within a corpus. Now that we are able to isolate a single scene within Hamlet, my job has become significantly easier. Not only am I able to Read and Annotate one act, but I can apply it to either the Heat Map or Word Tree visual. Very effective!

In this example I used the word Hamlet and just looked at Act Two specifically. The heat map now shows where Hamlet appears in the entire act (in the first column) and scenes one and two (the second and third column).

This nifty little tool has been quite useful when comparing the scenes within the act. It is interesting to note the number of times Hamlet’s name is used within a scene—especially since his character does not even appear in scene one, but his name does.

Continuing on with the usage of Hamlet’s name within Act Two, I decided to take a look at the word tree—which, if you can remember from our Phase One presentation, did not prove to be very useful. Well, it took some time but I can know say I think I may have found a VERY interesting use for it after all. A word tree is automatically generated when a heat map is created and appears below. After typing in Hamlet into the search button and choosing Act Two, I scrolled down and saw this:

Now this may not look like much but let me explain. The word tree takes the word Hamlet and branches off with the most common words that are used before and after. This feature is great for looking at the context for which a word is used and I have found it most useful when using names, for example, Hamlet or Polonius.

Another part of WordSeer I have not written about previously is the collections feature. It is easily used and allows you to save your work in a collection folder—created by you—and keep all of your findings in one place. In terms of Act Two, I have created a folder that I can save all of my search results.

As mentioned in my group members previous blog posts, act two has a main theme of surveillance. When we had our group meeting today, we focused on what each tool could do when given a theme such as surveillance. Using synonyms, we generated a list of words that could be used—in Shakespeare’s vocabulary—to describe surveillance. Some of these words included: knowledge, know, see, spy, and listen. Using WordSeer, I decided to try searching the word knowledge; my results indicated that the word appeared one time. Somewhat helpful.

Next we tried searching know, instead. Our results all came back differently, depending on the tool used: 14, 35, and 26.

Either way, we are definitely making some progress; whether it is a tool suddenly creating somewhat useful graphics (TAPor), or a return result list of over 1345, at this point in our research any result is a positive one.

(I apologize for the ridiculous amount of screen shots in this post.)

Word seer and the Final Act of Hamlet: Continuing to Narrow the Focus (Phase Two, Blog Post Two)

In continuing to research the text of Hamlet, while employing my tool of expertise, word seer, I have aimed to establish any potential discrepancies or factors that render the fifth act, my group’s act of study, as more “tragic” than the other acts of the play, or otherwise, the only
truly “tragic” act, alone. The focus of my previous post was to fixate on the distinction between my own interpretations, attained through critical closed reading text analysis, and those of word seer’s, while now it is my intent to narrow my scope even further, in concentrating my efforts towards what qualities—both  quantitative and qualitative—define the fifth act of Hamlet as significant as a single entity. In other words, my exploration of the text, both through traditional reading and digital assessment, will be geared towards uncovering clues or evidence to suggest how act five both differs from, and unifies the rest of the play, at the same time. Therefore, I will focus less on the digital tools and how they operate, and more so on the results they return, and how they may be implemented to suggest new conclusions and avenues for research.

My first objective was to segregate act five from the rest of the play, using word seer, and upon further learning how to do this, I will thus evaluate (using the functions of word seer) the comparison between act five, and the rest of the play. This will be my preliminary assessment, and I anticipate that I will have a sufficient indication of what words in act five will outweigh others used throughout the text, which could serve to exemplify certain trends worthy of further investigation, such as increased frequencies in one word that could potentially suggest the development of a motif that pertains to either the plot, theme, conflict, or tone of the text—all valuable quantitative fixtures with the
potential to support or discredit qualitative hypotheses. However, while I am still in the process of determining how to compare the whole play to act five alone, out of respect for the deadline of this post, I concentrated my efforts more towards seeing what I would be able to uncover from a word frequency analysis of the fifth act, alone. Therefore, my first order of business was to expand upon what I began in my last post, which was inputting the words, “soul”, “duty”, “life”, and “death”—words that I feel pertain to a revenge tragedy. last time, however, I was unable to isolate just the fifth act of Hamlet, and therefore was only able to observe how these words were concentrated throughout the entire play; now I am
able to determine their significance within my sphere of study—a large leap forward, in my estimation. The results of my search are featured below.

To my surprise, these words occurred in a relatively sparse concentration, thus, prompting me to consider alternatives in characterizing the theme of the text. I am pleased to comment, as a side note, that now that I am able to work with the fifth act, alone, I am more comfortable, and may be more efficiently discriminative in my research. Therefore, in response to my unexpected results, I felt obligated to try the same assessment once more, this time using the words “die”, “fall”, “revenge”, and “damned”, all words that may also be implemented to characterize both the theme and mood of Hamlet(this procedure is featured below).

Again, much to my surprise, these new inputted words demonstrated similar effects to the first set of words I worked with, although, to an even greater degree. What was most striking is the fact that the word “revenge” is only featured once throughout the entire final act of the play, which leads me to further infer that often the words most frequently associated with a text may not be the most appropriate or commonly recurring. Such changes in word frequencies, as my group colleague Stephanie explored in her blog post—in which she discovered that Hamlet’s motivation for revenge appears to wane towards the end of the text(as he refers to his father less and less)—may be used to raise new qualitative questions such as, “what is really is the number one thing on Hamlet’s mind as he nears his final confrontation with his uncle Claudius?” Stephanie’s work may be observed here: http://engl203.ucalgaryblogs.ca/2012/03/16/a-start-on-act-5/

Therefore, what I was able to obtain from these two assessments was a reaffirmation of my previous theory that, when considering text analysis, digital methods must be examined through a critical scope, while still serving as effective in shattering perhaps invalid preconceptions, such as how I initially believed that words such as the ones that I inputted were infallible in characterizing the themes of the text, whereas, I now recognize that I can employ word seer in a trial and error process of inputting new words that I think of in order to determine which ones could be implemented more effectively in describing the text as a whole, and more specifically, act five. Therefore, I will continue along with this inductive process, in aspiration of uncovering a new, insightful conclusion about both which words best define the fifth act, and what defines
the fifth act as a significant unit on its own, from a perspective of word frequency and usage. Essentially, I feel that the discovery of how to isolate
the act in word seer will greatly facilitate my research process, and I am quite pleased with it, to date, and will therefore continue to explore its
benefits as well as my new findings in my next blog post. In other words, I have narrowed the scope in this account more so than my previous post, and I attend to narrow it even further in using word seer, now that I am becoming more familiar with its functions.

Act 4 Thoughts…

The first official group meeting went rather splendid actually. I’m happy to say that I am in a group of keeners and we were all able to communicate our thoughts and expectations clearly. Saying that, the contract was easy to complete as we all wanted the same thing and the best part was that in order to keep everyone motivated on getting their tasks done on time- they would have to buy the rest of the group coffee if they didn’t do their work!

Muahaha!

The great part about doing act four is that so much happens in this particular act in the sense that everything from the previous acts are finally tying together leading to the finale of the play. This is where I noticed a lot of character development. Going through the entire play, it’s evident that this happens earlier on, however, in this act you can see whose loyalties lie where and the secret backstairs world of the characters. It’s dirty, revengeful, and full of insanity!

Working with Wordseer, I know I shall have a lot of fun experimenting with what I can find in act four. There are many clues in the language that Shakespeare uses in giving the reader/ viewer an idea of what`s going on, but it will be interesting to see what Wordseer highlights as significant and if it differs from my thoughts or if it`s the same, helping me further analyse the act by certain words.

Something I`m hoping to focus on and find more about is Hamlet`s relationship with his mother, Gertrude. In parts of the play, the reader gets the hint of more than a mother- son relationship, where in this act it completely changes that thought when Gertrude is so eager to rat her son out to Claudius. I`m hoping Wordseer can better help me understand each characters relationship with other characters and who really are friends and foes. I already know this, but perhaps the program will lead me to other clues that might make me think differently.

In act four, scenes five to six, I find it highly amusing when Hamlet taunts Claudius of Polonius`s murder with word games, and saying that he(Polonius) was eaten by worms. This play on different words demonstrates different tones and tact of humor. This is something else that I`m hoping that Wordseer can put light on. The word tree will definitely come in handy as I can see related words which will give me the sense of what else Shakespeare could have meant when he wrote those words.

I`m looking forward to meeting up with my group again and seeing what other interesting things they find with their programs. Also, I`m excited to get in touch with my previous group again to see what Wordseer found for their acts.

 

 

Putting it all together

To begin working with an entirely new group of people and knowing that you are the expert on one tool is slightly daunting.  The responsibilities regarding WordSeer are now entirely on me alone. Scary stuff! Anyways, now that the stress of presenting is over (for now), it is time for me to get back to the text in question: Hamlet, and more specifically Act Two. When I first think back to Act Two, what comes to mind is Scene Two, one of the longest (if not THE longest) scenes within the play. If Act Two had a theme—separate from that of the entire play—it would be apprehension and suspicion. Characters do not just confront each other directly but instead go between other characters, further misinforming all parties involved. Why does no one just ask Hamlet why he is acting strange? Act Two is really the beginning of the rising action of the play: setting up the characters and plotline for the climax of the story. It introduces the players, begins to answer why Hamlet is acting so strange, and creates a conflict between Polonius and his son.

Anyone else remember this from high school english?

Our first group meeting went pretty well, and it allowed me to look more closely—and make connections between—our different tools. The one that I found most intriguing was Voyeur. To have the visuals, word frequency graph, and the play all on one page is very handy. The only part of Voyeur that is somewhat inconvenient is that you have to download the text onto the website. In this example, I used Hamlet’s soliloquy at the end of 2.2. Somehow I managed to add the stop words to the Word Cloud—shocking, I know—and was surprised to find that Hamlet uses Hecuba THREE times in one speech!

Another interesting observation—and one that Prof. Ullyot previously pointed out in a comment—is the similarities between WordSeer and WordHoard. Both focus more on the word frequency and analyzing aspect of a text, rather than the tone and themes of a play. I think this will be a huge advantage for both tools, and will allow us to share information between programs.

Of course it isn’t a normal day in English 203 unless something decides to not work. Today it was GoogleChrome. Now normally this would not be a huge problem for me except that WordSeer works best on GoogleChrome. Sadly, there will be no WordSeer screenshots from me today. Once again, thanks technology!

(I would be extremely grateful to anyone who knows how to make GoogleChrome a permitted program in my firewall settings!)

In regards to Act Two specifically, I think our group has a lot to get through. Hamlet has multiple soliloquies throughout this act, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern make an appearance, and everyone is trying to figure out what is wrong with Hamlet. Analyzing this act calls for multiple read-throughs and discussions, as well as collaborations between tools and what each does to answer our questions.

Oy, we kan/ddo rreap moorre oov WS trru DH!

“Oy, we kan/ddo rreap moorre oov WS trru DH!” Do you get it? If you did you can officially call yourself a “Scrabble Freak”…smarty pants. If you did not get it, you can call yourself, umm, normal? 

A little bit of an explanation:

cool

 But why would I spend the time (I won’t tell you how much…) putting these letters together? To show how all five tools can cohesively come together…the same way our new groups are coming together for Phase 2 of our projects.  The fact that some groups faced difficulty in the previous phase is actually particularly convenient for me here. Their difficulties are represented by my interesting and “difficult” spelling choices. Obviously I did this on purpose…

In all honesty, I think that it is at this point that some truly interesting and useful discoveries are going to be made within Hamlet.  In Phase one, everyone was trying to figure out their tool and become the “expert” of it. In Phase two, however, it seems we as teams will be dealing a lot more with the text itself (specifically our designated Acts). 

 As a member of the “Act 1” group I am feeling interested but sceptical.  What could our group possibly uncover that could compare to the “Act 3” or “Act 4” group.  We do have a ghost cameo, which is pretty cool, but lets be honest – we all want to rip apart Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” speech.  To dissect that speech with even one tool, Wordseer for example, could prove to be tremendously insightful. I am certainly interested to see what that group comes up with!

 That being said, maybe Act 1 will come out as the Underdog in this project. I am, admittedly, apprehensive of the results we may find in this act; however, perhaps my own lack of interest will spark a higher level of interest for myself: a challenge.  Will being assigned a comparatively less interesting act push me to search for the unobvious?   A Shakespearean “Where’s Waldo”. COOL.

cool-er

Coming out on the other side of this blog post I am feeling a little more excited about Act 1. What can we, bringing all five tools together as a team, really discover about this act? How much more “kan” we “rreap oov WS truu DH”? Is Waldo hiding in the pages of Hamlet’s Act 1? It’s all about his trademark stripped shirt: obnoxious and begging to be noticed, but also ridiculously easy to overlook.  You can’t see it…until you do.

Death, Death, Death- Or is that it? (Phase Two, Blog Post One)

Throughout the course of this post, it is my intention to explore the relationship between my interpretations of the text of Hamlet acquired
through traditional text analysis and my closed reading of the text, and the interpretations drawn from employing my tool of expertise, word seer, to critically analyzing certain fragments, in this case, a single act of the play. I will then highlight how these two approaches compare to one another, and pose further questions as to how this comparison may be capitalized upon in order to generate new conclusions or insightful observations.  I would first like to express that I have always been sceptical of classifying Hamlet as a conventional tragedy, as the protagonist Hamlet deviates from the characteristic traits of the tragic hero, and commits no apparent “mistaken act”, and the majority of action does not culminate until the bloodbath of act five, coincidentally, the act I have been assigned to study. Therefore, my interpretation of this act can largely be characterized by the observation that it alone defines this iconic play as the tragedy it has come to be widely recognized as. Without summarizing the plot of the text, it is evident that the catastrophe and other defining aspects of Aristotle’s conceptions of the genre
of tragedy are reserved almost exclusively for act five, as Hamlet and a series of characters surrounding him, including the villainous king Claudius who he seeks to exact a vendetta upon, face their untimely demise. So what does this mean to my interpretation? Death, death, death. Futility, futility, futility. Basically, I believe that the bard is trying to express to us a message that revenge only manifests as death, and highlights the futility of life the struggle associated with it. My interpretation is one among many, however, of course. Even as superficial a source as Wikipedia recognizes a multitude of proposed and perceived contexts and themes that the text carries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet#Context_and_interpretation

Now, this interpretation is just fine, on a superficial, redundant, basis. However, when we seek to uncover new insights and avenues for exploration that have rarely been embarked on, it is also effective to employ tools such as word seer to aid in identifying new trends.

So, how would I gauge word seer’s interpretation of act five of Hamlet, and, in turn, compare it with my own? In considering the advantages of word seer that my group outlined during phase one of our team assignments, I felt obliged to plug in some words, pertaining to act five in particular, that I felt could be conducive to word seer’s processing. Simple enough, right? However, this was not the case; incidentally, I was unable to segregate the fifth act of Hamlet alone(a task I will fixate on more as my research progresses), therefore, I felt it fitting to exhaust the next best alternative, in examining the entire text again using word seer, in order to apply it more broadly to my interpretations of act five, alone. I must comment, of course, that this may be an instance in which another tool, such as voyeur and its image qualities, could well supplement word seer’s shortcomings. Regardless, I decided to employ words that I feel characterize the themes of Hamlet, and proceeded to observe the concentration of them throughout the text, paying particular attention to the words that more frequently occur towards the end of the text, that being, act five. In this case, I searched “death”(as a fundamental), “life”, “duty”, and “soul”, in order to observe whether or not they appeared heavily towards the text. (These results are pictured below). However, what I was surprised to find was that these words, which all carry emphasis within the “revenge” tragedy, were dispersed throughout the entire text, and did not exceptionally exceed their counterparts near the end of the play.

What exactly did I make of this? Ironically, this interpretation provided by word seer, identifying that none of these words completely define the text in frequency, contrasts to my own closed reading and textual analysis interpretations in demonstrating that words themselves do not necessarily develop into a coherent indicator of theme. Therefore, I am intrigued towards studying speech patterns and speaker frequencies in order to expand my perspective regarding interpreting Hamlet, a process which, I will conclude, could be better achieved by other tools.

Before giving up on my previously advocated frequent words constituting theme theory, I intend, one last time, to compare “death” and “honour” with the other texts in the Shakespeare corpus, in order to see if the frequency exceeds the other texts, perhaps suggesting that Hamlet is founded more on characters, speeches, and themes that favour these words. For now, however, I will reiterate the relationship, and comparison, between my interpretations of Hamlet, and those suggested by my findings in word seer.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the two interpretations I worked with were at dueling odds with one another. While word seer’s findings didn’t exactly support my interpretations, (the results would have verified my interpretations were they to contain a higher concentration of the inputted words near the end of the play) they certainly aided me in recognizing that interpretations and perspectives should not be taken at face value, in that, words that are suspected to occur frequently do not constitute the theme of text. Therefore, while my interpretations are geared more towards my closed reading, the word seer interpretations helped me to be aware of leaning towards
one theory or conclusion without considering varying alternatives, and this is the ultimate underlying relationship between what I found and suspected, and what word seer supplemented it with.  In my next post, I will further explore this relationship, in using more detailed
approaches with more specific functions of word seer, and perhaps even other tools that my new group members specialize in, in narrowing down my search more successfully to act five alone. However, this being said, no one is a complete expert, and one of the fundamental values in research is to adapt and learn as one progresses, and that is what I intend to do.

Wordseer: The Problems and the Possibilities

So I was at my group meeting on Friday, and, wouldn’t you guess, our tool, Wordseer, wasn’t up. That’s to be expected occaisonally with any program you find hosted on the internet, because servers crash, updates are installed, tested, etc. but then it happened again today.

 

 

When, over the course of a week, the tool is down twice at the very least. It starts to indicate, at least to me, that it has some technical issues to solve. Now, I’m a computer-science major as well as an English one, so I understand technical difficulties, and accept that there are plenty of tools out there with such difficulties… But not all their problems are technical.

 

For the purpose and remainder of this blog, I’m going to assume a hypothetical next genereation Wordseer and to this Wordseer 2.0 I’m going to attribute as many things that would be helpful as possible. This way I would be suggesting improvments as opposed to criticizing Wordseer for what it is not.

 

The first and most useful thing that is missing and could be included in a new iteration is a text uploader. This way you could analyze any text that you want. Currently the selection is a) written by Shakespeare, b) written by Stephen Crane, or c) related to slaves. Doing this would give users a far broader volume of text, but also would allow someone to take a text and easily use a tool like Tapor to extract pieces of text, for a more versatile analysis. For example, Dr. Ullyot wanted us to try and find a way to analyse Hamlet 3.4, but lacking any function to do so, our group was incapable of analysing any one portion of Hamlet. If we could upload an xml, text, or html file to be read, we could then upload just 3.4 and analyse the document. With this theoretical addition, one could also upload just one speech, or the lines of one character, or a section that the user has found that is written in a certain meter. Any of these and just about any other selection of text would help a user find more specific, varying, and interesting results.

 

 

Another function that could be included would be to report bugs in the software searching for relations, because these do, occaisonally, pop up. This would help the creator of the software to better understand and develop the tool to become more accurate over time. These things happen, it’s easier to report a bug if you just press a button pertaining to one search result that turned up when it doesn’t apply. This would help the creator of the software to help the users of the software to have more varied and more appropriate search results and making his or her experience simpler and more effective.

 

The last addition I think could be added is the possibility of private and public functions which would apply to such current functions as tags, annotations, and collections. Things not already included that could have both private and public attributes could be saved search results, documents that the user uploaded (as per earlier in this same blog) or even forums or chat. This would enable collaborative work through a) the entirety of the digital Humanities field b) a small group of students or researchers working on a research paper or project or c) just the one user. It would enable the users in the neccessary groups to have access to everything they need or want and eliminate the unneccessary annotations and documents.

 

There are currently 3 ENGL203 and 4 Hamlet related documents, all of them public.

 

Now, I realize that this is largely the criticisms, of a computer-science student, but it is also the opinion of a Wordseer user and English student. I think Wordseer has potential as a fun and intensely useful tool that could help students come up with theses for their papers, but right now it is limited to, well, let’s be honest, no one’s going to search the relationships between words in works about slaves, and not too many digital humanists will be interested in Stephen Crane’s works; right now it’s limited to Shakespeare and limited within it by subdividing walls at that.

WordSeer’s Clean comeback- Finally Satisfied!

Second blog post on WordSeer…let’s see, there was definitely many ups and downs!

First off, I think it is super sweet that Aditi Muralidharan took the time to read my blog and apologize for the slow speed of the program. Aditi, it isn’t your fault, this is how everything in life gets better- with trial and error- but I still greatly appreciate your sincere concern (<3). I came to realize this when working in my group on our presentation that we plan to show the class on Friday. I have a super great group and with all of our ideas and feedback it was going through the same process of getting through problems and finding the best way to convey our findings in the most correct and accurate way as possible. PS- spending 20 minutes on a sentence was well worth it! We discovered new things such as the “newspaper” application (thank you Richelle for this!) that highlights one word throughout the entire text. This was a really great finding, however, we as a group ran into the problem of not being able to do a “snippet” (highlighting an entire scene of the play) therefore not enabling us to use the newspaper application as we couldn’t get the one scene of 3.4 alone. This made it difficult to compare as we only knew the findings for the entire play leading us to the issue of not knowing how to include this in our presentation.

The neat thing in general about WordSeer is that through the “read and annotate” button (which at first many of us struggled with) we were able to make notes and highlights. We realized that even though it was a challenge to get just 3.4., when studying the entire text it is an amazing tool once the browser glitches are fixed. It is wonderful in doing initial research, allowing one to get a hypothesis and a good start in using other tools and methods to continue the research. The program is really organized, and lets us put our notes and tags directly on the text which is readily available too which serves as another convenience! WordSeer, I believe, is the best tool in finding certain words in a text and providing evidence that shows the significance of those words which leads to the understanding of theme and tone, characters, and meaning.

The one thing that I cannot be happier about in concerns to my digital humanities program is that WordSeer has a simple face, easing the troubled minds of the technologically challenged such as myself. Sure, I ran into problems, but in the overall experience of using this program- it came to be more pleasant than frustrating. It also helped that my group and I were very open with each other and we worked as a great team! Thanks guys, you all rock!

Once we navigated through the initial obstacles, the more we got used to our program the easier and less complicated it got. The results were clean and polished, and provided us many answers, even more than we had expected. It shows qualitative and quantitative answers, each result leading us to more search options and ideas.

To be honest, since WordSeer seemed the easiest program to use- I admit that I underestimated its capabilities. I remember in one of my twitter questions, I had asked if WordSeer would provide vague and simple answers as the program appeared basic compared to the more techie tools such as Tapor. I was pleasantly surprised to know that complicated and hard doesn’t lead to more intelligent and detailed results. Less is more in this case, and what a relief I tell you!

 

Another day, another new discovery

I can now say that I have spent a considerable amount of time on WordSeer, and am (finally) beginning to get the hang of it. Although I will stand by my first post and once again state that WordSeer is a simple-to-use tool, it also has its challenges. The main issue that our group has noted is we cannot seem to isolate a single scene within Hamlet, and therefore have had problems when comparing 3.4 to the rest of the play. This has especially presented us with the challenge of integrating 3.4 into our presentation. If there is a simple explanation for this problem—which I am sure there is—I would be forever grateful!

Another feature I have just discovered (although why it took me so long—since this is a word analyzing tool—is a mystery to me), is Read and Annotate. It allows the users to read, highlight, and take notes, within any piece of writing on the site. Some may say, “Why not just use the actual book?” Well, for me, the answer is simple: my handwriting is terrible, and I often spend more time decoding my own words than I take to read the entire play. The Read and Annotate keeps a neat and organized collection of your notes, while allowing you to compare other works at the same time.

Another feature that was just discovered—many thanks to Richelle—is the Newspaper button. This allows you to search a word, hit Newspaper, and have the word appear on the a Heat Map. Super convienant!

These are just a few of the newly discovered aspects of WordSeer, since collaborating as a group and beginning our final presentation. One thing that has been talked about during our group meetings has been the question: Is WordSeer more a qualitative or quantitative tool? After a lengthy discussion on the topic—and a few awkward silences—we came to the conclusion that it involves both aspects. Searching for words and being presented with a list of results is a helpful quantitative tool. We can easily compare word frequencies within Hamlet and compare it to other plays written by Shakespeare. In contrast, WordSeer is also qualitative when receiving results and choosing which words are of importance within the scene. I think this is what makes WordSeer so unique; it provides multiple questions and observations that assist the users in creating hypothesis.

With all of the challenges I have encountered and hours that have been spent on WordSeer, I will say this: I am extremely happy that the entire corpus of Shakespeare is readily available for use, making it all the more faster when searching within a text. For this reason WordSeer is a great tool for future use, especially other Shakespeare courses. Thanks Aditi Muralidharan!

This has been a long week—with many early mornings—but overall I would say the results have been worth it. I have learned so much about WordSeers capabilities and how the tool works. However, my findings have not just been limited to WordSeer, but reading other classmates posts and comments, I have begun to understand more about text analysis tools and the Digital Humanities in general. I am looking forward to the presentations!

Narrowing the Scope: Zeroing in on Word Seer and the Digital Humanities

Dane Thibeault

Phase 1 Blog Post 2: Narrowing the Scope: Zeroing in on Word Seer and the Digital Humanities

I am writing this post to address some reassessments that I have made to my opinion of word seer, while additionally describing what role I had to play in the team project process to date. I am one apt to revoke my opinions of something if I find a cause for concern, and in regards to some of the functions of word seer, I experienced a few less than praise worthy difficulties during my research, which I will go into in detail throughout the duration of this recollection, while offering some insights on my assistance towards my team’s efforts.

Throughout the course of my team’s research in exploring the functions of the tool word seer, I have contributed a great deal to the overall process in individually assessing the tool’s potential to return relevant and insightful results from simply inputting data. In my previous blog post, and during my overall involvement process, I posed this fundamental question to myself: To what extent is word seer interesting, and to what extent is word seer insightful? What I mean by “interesting” is that many aspects of the tool may prove visually appealing or intriguing(Such as the feature depicted in the image below—yes, it is interesting to look at, but what does it really tell us about Hamlet?), yet, what I search for is the
more “insightful” qualities of the tool, such as what it can tell us that we could not readily or as easily identify through traditional text analysis, and how it is effective within the broader spectrum of the English discipline, altogether.

How I went about this process, the preliminary stages having been discussed in my previous blog post, evaluating to a lesser extent the same fundamental issue, was by exploring the capacity of the image comparative functions available in word seer to accurately represent trends or patterns that reveal details about the text of Hamlet, and the narrower study of act three scene four in particular, in a way that is either absent or otherwise complicated by traditional critical text analysis and closed reading. I concluded my last blog post with aspirations to further assess the word tree feature in particular, yet, I have concluded since then in my individual research, and as part of my contribution to the collaborative effort of the project, that this function is largely aesthetic and quantitative, and while it suggests word frequencies, it does little to suggest new avenues of research and interpretation regarding the text.

Therefore, seeing as to this disillusionment I experienced in my individual testing of the word tree function, I was further prompted to explore the more fundamental aspects of word seer, the words “described as” feature. What I was both surprised and disappointed to uncover, in a search of Claudius described as “blank”, was that both incoherent and unexpected results surfaced (pictured below, and keep this question in mind—does this sound like the villainous Claudius?) contributing to a mounting scepticism on my behalf.  As a result of this development, I felt compelled to shift my individual efforts and research more towards considering the overall impact of the tool, from the broader perspective of its impacts on the digital humanities, as opposed to its individual features, which I consider to be obscure and highly perplexing when I am working with them on my own. What on earth is a “snippet”, and how does one create of these, anyhow?

So, what is the overall significance of the word seer tool, which I initially felt to be its image qualities? My answer: I have no idea as of yet. In disarming myself of the ammunition that this tool is one of the rare few that can achieve qualitative value in hinting at the aspects of theme within a text, I was left with little to move on. However, I was able to reassess my priorities, and refocus my efforts. So how have I really individually contributed to the group work process, then? Simple: I started doing what I do best. What is that you ask? I simply grabbed a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and began to draft an outline, answering questions that I began to pose for myself, such as “why use word seer instead of other tools?” and “how could what I am trying to do with word seer be resolved better by either using other digital humanities tools or traditional text analysis?” and soon found that I was less overwhelmed about the whole process. I proceeded to complete my outline, jotting down some of the problems I faced, the lingering questions I had, and points that I felt would be effective to include in the presentation for the project, and promptly brought the outline with me to today’s group meeting to share with my team members. They were actually impressed, and were intrigued by many of the questions I raised, which has led me to conclude that there is a place for tradition in the rapidly advancing field of digital humanities, and additionally caused me to consider this underlying question: to what extent is there a potential to integrate traditional critical text analysis approaches, and the digital humanities? This is a question I have yet to provide an answer for, yet, I am determined to do so as my next ambition.

What ever happened to you, old friend?

A Better Understanding

Alright – second blog post here we go.

Since my previous post, I have gotten to know Wordseer a little better and think I may be able to provide a little more insight into this tool.  The group meetings I have been participating in with the other Wordseer “experts” have really helped all of us, I think, develop a deeper knowledge of exactly what it is this tool has to offer.

Diving right in, I want to show you guys some new features I have discovered.

If you have tried your hand at Wordseer, you already know the basic functions it offers for thorough text analysis. These sub-tools include: searching comparisons through “described as” or “any relation to”, “done by” etc. functions.  Other searches offered are Heat maps and Word Trees – which provide a visual element to analysis…blah blah blah…all of this has been covered in detail in my last post – which I know you all read…anyway…

What I have not shared with you is the nifty way you can compare different words within Heat maps! Intriguing, right? Prepare yourself.

Pretty cool, right?! In this particular screen shot, I am comparing FIVE words used within Hamlet with each other. In the column to the left of the map, you can see the words I chose to compare (war, kill, die, death, and revenge). Moving to the right to actual Heat map, the distinction between words is marked by the color. Something interesting I noticed on this map is the difference between the usage of the words “Kill” and “death” – with the first column representing “death” and the final column representing “kill”. Why is there such a difference in the amount of times each word is used? Does it mean anything?

This is the kind of information DH tools are excellent at providing.

Something else to note about the Heat Maps is that when a user has their curser on a colored tab, as I do in the image below, the specific instance in which that word is used will appear to the right of the tab, providing users with the entire line.

This kind of information can be helpful for users while trying to determine the mood, or tone in which a specific word has been used.

Another cool feature of Wordseer is the “Read and Annotate” function available.  I have found that this aspect of Wordseer is reminiscent of traditional analysis methods in that you are able to read the text and “highlight” among other cool tricks.  See for yourself….

Using an example from Act 3, Scene 4 of Hamlet, you can see how handy this tool really is.  By highlighting and clicking on any word, a box will appear with a list of options. By clicking the “Newspaper-strip Visualization” option another box will appear to the right with the highlighted word. And when you click “Go”…..

You are brought to a new screen featuring a Heat Map including every instance of the word, in my case “offended” used in the entire Shakespeare corpus. This of course can be manipulated to feature one play exclusively of anything else you want – including Word Trees.  Is this particular information useful or insightful, maybe, maybe not…is it cool…umm yeah!

One last tool offered under the “Read and Annotate tab is the “Related words” option located in the same menu displayed when you click on a highlighted word.  Selecting “Related Words” pops up another box, providing users with “Nearby Adjective’, Nearby Nouns”, “Nearby Verbs”, as well as words used in a similar context.

This can be helpful for users attempting to strengthen a hypothesis they may have or further develop initial ideas.

With these new discoveries in Wordseer, I am feeling more are more comfortable “experimenting” with my own theories.  Overall, I would call Wordseer incredibly user friendly…once it decides to accept your friend request!

About the Developers

A few people have asked about the contact information for the developers of our various tools. As I said in class, remember a few things before you contact people for help:

  1. Describe your problem in detail, and ask clear and focused questions. Tell them what steps you have taken to try to resolve it yourself.
  2. Be polite and deferential. They are not customer service agents, but professors and experts who have devoted a lot of time to developing these tools and making them freely available to us.
  3. Give them at least 48 hours to respond; if you have nothing by then, take that as your answer or just keep waiting. Don’t send a follow-up for at least a week.
  4. Thank them for their time.
  5. Link to the course blog in your e-mail.

The Developers

Feel free to add other names of helpful people you’ve contacted in the comments; just make sure you tell us which program they were helpful about.

VOYEUR

  • Geoffrey Rockwell has a contact page on his blog. He is also on Twitter.
  • Stéfan Sinclair also has a contact page with a form, and here is his Twitter profile.
MONK
WORDHOARD
  • Martin Mueller is the contact person; you can e-mail him directly from the home page.
TAPoR
  • Rockwell, above, is listed as their main/only contact.
  • Kamal Ranaweera <kamal.ranaweera {at} ualberta.ca> manages user accounts.
WORDSEER
  • Aditi Muralidharan’s blog has her e-mail and Twitter details.

Insatiable

If it is true that we can never learn it “all”, then it is implied that is something else to learn. For this reason, I believe we as humans, are naturally insatiable.  Hungry for knowledge, for the things we do not yet know. While reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, this feeling is no stranger to me.  They say that writers are “game players” and while reading Hamlet I feel as though Shakespeare was no exception. Every word used is a word meant to be used. Every reference, theme, character, etc. has a meaning.  So how does a person even being to comprehend the most remote nuances delivered to readers via Shakespeare himself…? Wordseer of course! http://wordseer.berkeley.edu/shakespeare/index.php

Okay, maybe that was a bit of an over-sell…but you get the point. Wordseer is a Digital Humanities tool designed to provide users with a deeper understanding of a text – in my case Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Now I know what you’re thinking: how can a computer give me deeper insights than my own text and highlighter…? Well the main difference is your sanity; personally I would like to retain mine…for now. What do I mean? Well, the amount of time an individual would have to spend scanning a text in comparison to a computer is incredibly different – granted that the tool is working correctly…

By searching a single word in relation to a single character, hypothesis can be drawn. The fact that Wordseer exists to deliver these results to you makes the range of individual theories broaden. While experimenting on my own, it is interesting to note the evidence or even lack of evidence provided by the usage of words in a text so widely examined.  Interesting opinions of theme, character, and plot will creep into your mind, and then you will know…Wordseer has officially opened your eyes to any text you may be experimenting with.

Within Wordseer, lie a couple niftly tools to help users a little more visually. Perhaps I am interested to know how many times the word “death” is used in Hamlet in relation to the rest of the Shakespeare corpus…

Cool

With the first column representing Hamlet and each following column representing additional Shakespeare works, users can visually recognize the difference from play to play in regards to a single word usage.

But perhaps you are interested in looking a little more closely at one text particularly; easy enough.  This would be a great time to create a Word Tree. Word Trees are great for finding every instance of a single word in a text followed or preceded by the line(s) the word is used in.

Cool

This visual element can be helpful in determining the context in which a specific word may be used.

Overall, Wordseer is a great tool for users looking to dig a little deeper, while embracing a new method of analysis.  This tool can help you discover layers to text which may be easy to pass over, thus assisting in the formation of provocative
thesis and conclusions or even just some interesting thoughts! I hope you are ready to feel satiated, if only for a short while.

 

Words and Their Relations: Wordseer and One of Its Uses

In English 203 I’ve been working with Wordseer as part of a group specializing in that tool. Because I’m new to the digital humanities field, I am also new to the tool Wordseer. In order to better understand Wordseer and how it helps me study the digital humanities, as well as to help along the other students in my class in it’s understanding, I came up with a couple of questions.

The first question I asked, and the one was “what is one use of Wordseer?”. What I found was that Wordseer is unique, among the tools in the Digital Humanities that I’m familiar with, in that it has a search function to find how words interact with each other. This is helpful in finding the opinions of characters towards certain things or other people. It is better to do this with specific people or places or things. Using Hamlet as the text, I entered Ophelia described as blank so as to find how the characters felt about or viewed Ophelia.

Ophelia described as blank

Ophelia described as blank

The results show that Ophelia was fair, poor and sweet. I can see this as a very useful and important tool because it gives me a good idea of how Shakespeare intended us to view Ophelia, as well as the overall opinion that the other characters have of her.

We can also go to the bottom of the page and look at the results in a better context.

This section of the tool is useful because it helps the user to understand the specific situations that the word is used in. The word is shown with a few lines around it, this allows the user to get the mood and the tone of the situation the word is used in. One problem, though, with this section is that it tends to be a limited view of the word, but, by clicking on the indicated icon, you can read the full section of the text that the word is used in and the text from the search page is highlighted to let the user know where the word is in the text.

This allows the user to know who is speaking, also allowing the user to know how that character feels about the word he or she searched for. In my case, from this search and only a few lines around the given sections of text surrounding each use of the word Ophelia I can find out these things about her in a very short amount of time:

  • She is fair of appearance.
  • She grows mad sometime during the play.
  • She drowns sometime during the play.
  • Hamlet in particular thinks her beautiful.
  • When she dies she is deeply missed by Laertes.

From this narrative, I’ve learned one excellent way to interpret a text with Wordseer. Using the search function, a user can interpret what a character place or thing is like. This is a very helpful function in literary analysis in that it can help define a character.

Family Affairs in the Digital Humanities

To begin writing blog posts I was extremely nervous. What if I wrote something unintelligent? First of all, the whole world would have access to it, and the thought that the whole class and not just the professor would read it really had me sweating! It doesn’t help that I’m completely technologically challenged either, and prefer to do things the old fashioned way such as writing my notes with a pen and paper (gasp!). But despite this, one thing I realized as I tried to be enthusiastic about this whole other world to me was that it makes things so much easier! Less time, looks cleaner and more polished, and way more people can see other things that you post even if it’s not school related (scary at first, but kind of cool now). Imagine getting my stuff published and recognized by a much larger audience…this would be the way to do it! The only problem about this supposedly easier method is that if you don’t know how to do squat on the computer, its way harder before it gets any easier.

So my goal was to get used to using this method, so that soon enough I could do this with my eyes closed (so I hope at least). It drove me absolutely crazy when my browser wouldn’t load, or that my laptop came up with blank pages. Why wasn’t this working as smoothly as I hoped? The funny thing is, this was no longer an individual thing I did on my own (besides my group members), it became a family affair. The amount of times I got my poor father to fix the wi-fi, pleaded with him to call SHAW, and even after all that the browser was still slow… I cried saying that my laptop is crap and that this was his fault because he made me get a PC when I insisted I wanted a Mac.

Funny business aside,

After watching the video tutorials on WordSeer and trying as many different things as I could, I discovered some really cool things. Obviously, I had learnt about some of the benefits of WordSeer from the class workshop, but it was different when I started to play with it on my own. It just “clicked” and finally the light bulb lit up. Unfortunately this didn’t happen before I started the whole incident with my father…sorry dad!

The good news is, after my dad sat me down and made me explain the whole point of the digital humanities and why this mattered so much (I asked the same thing at the beginning of the semester), he seemed really impressed! My dad lives on his computer and does all that hard math excel stuff. He didn’t know that an English major could use so much technology to further enhance her “field.” So all in all, it started off bad and frustrating, but turned out to be really valuable and my dad gave me the “nod” of approval! Note to self- dad associates technology with importance, good to know. And I no longer have to be associated as that child who’s useless because she isn’t becoming a dentist.

I must admit that I was really relieved that I was doing WordSeer. It seemed like the least complicated next to Wordhoard during the workshops, and after playing around with it  (when the browser was working) I realized how creative and so easy to use it was. I was impressed by the high quality of imagery and being a visual person it was easier to comprehend. I am still on the process of working on how to do snippets, but the gist of the program such as making collections and seeing the comparisons with Shakespeare’s other works to Hamlet makes it easier to identify the themes and significance of certain words. I liked the fact that with WordSeer the results can be as simple or as complicated as you make it. For example, you are able to just get words from one scene of one play, or compare words from all the plays from a certain genre such as tragedy, plu more! This is a great tool for initial research and after doing the writing skills exercise in class, it dawned on me that this is an awesome place to start studying neologisms and etymologies of each word (an assignment I had to do for my Shakespeare’s class).

As for specific findings on Hamlet act 3, scene 4- I haven’t gone too much into this as I was spending much of my time navigating through the program. However, I am quite excited to discover whatever WordSeer will offer me now that I have some confidence in using the program (and the computer). In my next blog post I plan to focus on my findings from this scene and elaborate more specifically on all the benefits of WordSeer.

Could WordSeer be the simplest word analyzing program?

After hearing my classmates responses to their word analyzing programs in class the other day, I can honestly say I am lucky to have been assigned to WordSeer. WordSeer is simple to understand and easy to navigate. When we were first asked to watch the demonstration videos posted, I figured WordSeer was just like all the other programs we had looked at. Over the past few weeks I have begun exploring WordSeer; figuring out its capabilities, setbacks, and unique features. One of these features is the visuals it creates with just the click of a button. The “Heat Map” visual creates blocks of colour, each one indicating when a word appears within a text. You can choose which text—in this case Hamlet—you want to specify the search for, or you can choose more general and incorporate all of Shakespeare’s work. For example, in the first Heat Map I have used the word love as described in any relation to the word. Here are the results:

As compared to love in Shakespeare’s “Primarily Love” plays:

A unique function of WordSeer that is not used among the other word analyzing programs—that I am aware of anyway—is the related words function. I am guilty of right clicking in Word documents to find synonyms when I am stuck, and “Related Words” does just that. For example if I searched death throughout Hamlet but did not yield many results, I can click on the word and—similar to a Word document—search for synonyms.

One of the only problems I have encountered with WordSeer is the program is sometimes unresponsive. I have had issues with freezing on the website and computer, and more than once it has stopped working all together. At times nothing will happen when a button is clicked on. The only solution I have found for this problem is switching browsers. Personally, I find Google Chrome works best, although I have heard from other classmates that Firefox is also a good option.

Although I have explored the majority of WordSeer, there are still some features I have not thoroughly looked at. The snippet feature is still a mystery to me and although I have tried creating a snippet it usually just highlights the entire play, the exact opposite of what I intended. Exploring Hamlet as a whole has been quite interesting, and narrowing it down to a single act and scene, will be a nice comparison.

Overall, WordSeer has impressed me with its abilities. I am still new at the whole “Digital Humanities” thing, and computer programs follow closely behind. However, WordSeer has been easy to navigate, and even in one week, it has created new insights into Hamlet that I have not previously encountered. I am still amazed at the fact that WordSeer is able to analyze parts of Shakespeare’s work in seconds; I only wish I had known about it when I was in high school and Shakespeare was like a foreign language to me.

Birth of a Salesman: How Word Seer and its Supplemented Images May Sell Us New Interpretations

     Dane Thibeault

English 265 Phase 1 Blog Post 1

   In being tasked with studying act III scene iv of Shakespeare’s Hamlet using the tool word seer, I was prompted to inquire more
about the tool itself, and to convey the results as the basis of this recollection.  However, a question I asked myself, prior to exploring the functions of word seer, was whether I believed it to be a simply interesting device, or an actually insightful device. What I mean by this is that I felt it necessary to deem whether or not the tool would return simply quantitative results with little meaning out of context, or rather, whether the device would return results that could be implemented in forming a qualitative conclusion, one that may not be easily reached from simple traditional close reading and text analysis.  My answer: quantitative results can form qualitative features, in identifying frequent words that may be used in establishing themes of studied texts, and word seer is an excellent tool in doing just so, through its visual functions.

     What are word seer’s limitations? That which we all possess: human intellect. How these problems may be overcome will largely be the target of my research. What I mean by this is that, while data figures may prove useful, they are not interpretations on their own, which can only be achieved by thoughtful evaluation. However, this brings me back to how many of the functions of word seer are a step in this direction. This being said. the more specific limitations of this tool I have yet to discover, and will attempt to uncover in further discovering how it works.

     The initial appeal of word seer, one that I feel deems it as more useful than a series of other digital tools, is that it is equipped with a heat map function, which allows for it to display the frequency of certain inputted words as they appear throughout a text, a visual feature that allows for comparisons and contrasts to be established.  For instance, a constantly recurring word can be inferred to represent a central theme within a text, as a word such as “lust”—one carrying thematic implications—may recur in one of Shakespeare’s other texts, such as Othello. Therefore, to test the validity of this feature, I inserted the word, “revenge” in the context of Hamlet, and was somewhat astounded by the results, (featured below) as they were characterized by a surprising lack of frequency of the word, contrary to my expectations, demonstrating how data features may be used to either verify or discredit superficial suppositions.

I was also surprised to discover that other words characteristic of Shakespeare’s works, excluding “love” and “death”, such as “chaste” “debt” and “honour” were remarkably less frequent than I would have previously anticipated based on my avid reading of the Bard’s other works(this test is featured below). This phenomenon may be used as evidence to suggest that Hamlet may differ greatly from the other texts in the Shakespearean corpus: an intriguing avenue for further research. Such questions as these may not only be tested with tools like word seer, but also, may be prompted by unexpected data results that are returned from such devices.

Therefore, it is now evident to me the profound impact of images on research. While one could repeatedly read Hamlet for analysis, it is unlikely that they could reach such observations so quickly and efficiently, and the further questions prompted by viewing an image would likely be absent from the process of inquisition.  Ammunition to support the significance of images to the process of research and interpretation, and the formulation of new theories and observations, is offered by  Martyn Jessop, in the following  article blurb: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/3/281.short

So what to make of all of this, then? Essentially, what I wish to offer is an alternative approach to acquiring information about the themes of commonly studied texts. Therefore, word seer is an effective implement, as it allowed me to conclude, through preliminary trials, some potential ominous themes to characterize the text of Hamlet, through the words frequently used, such as how the repeated use of the word “death” has become an iconic thematic assumption of the play.  Further, this being said, what I desire to advocate is that word seer is made effective by its heat map image qualities, for comparison, contrast, visualization and frequency,  and that the further aim of my research is to continue to inquire into its other potential uses, to further determine its qualitative, insightful potential. Therefore, my next order of business is to explore other such features, such as the word tree below.

 

 

WordSeer basics

WordSeer is a program for searching for words and their uses/relationships in all of Shakespeare’s texts, and for visualizing search results in ways that provoke new understanding and new questions. The designer is Aditi Muralidharan. In my notes on each of her videos below, I’ll include a series of questions about Hamlet that WordSeer could help you answer.

This is an introduction to the program’s capabilities and features.

Part 1 covers simple search, for word frequency and location, and relational search, for grammatical relationships (e.g. words describing other words). Continue reading