Putting aside preconceived notions and discovering something useful

As my initial process with Voyeur comes to a close (or rather a new beginning) I can now securely say that I have entered into the world of digital humanities and embraced a new way of analyzing text.  Referring back to Katy’s first blog post of the traditional “cookie-cutter” method of analyzing text (go to Katy’s blog post here:\”Momentary Panic and Gradual Acceptance\”), I felt a little uneasy venturing into this unknown world of digital humanities.  I had no faith in my computer skills or how any of these tools would help me analyze text.  Now looking back, I have realized that suffering the long and tedious process of going through a text with only a pen or pencil in hand, is not the only option!  I find it ridiculous that I actually thought that the traditional method was easier. It was only easier, in my mind, because it was all that I knew.  I tested the water of digital humanities first with Wordhoard and was intrigued that I now possessed a single program on my computer that would instantly take me to any Skakespearean play I needed.

Don’t need to carry you around anymore! Ha Ha! :

But, I never took the time to make new discoveries about WordHoard and found it visually unappealing.  I gave up just as easily with the other tools; I assumed they would be just as uninteresting – and of lesser use.  Surprisingly, I ended up with Voyeur as my tool, which I knew least about.  Like I said in my previous blog post (check out my first blog post here!: “Initial Responses to Voyeur“), I thought it was only a bubbleline chart.  Yet now I was forced to look at this tool, figure out its purpose, and find a way to use Voyeur to help me discover new things about Hamlet.  And it wasn’t easy – until I let it be that is.  Once you find the right browser (avoid using Chrome and Safari – for Mac users) and get over the glitches of Java (as Nicole, my fellow group member will tell you, “it’s not your fault, it’s Java’s”) Voyeur has become one of the most useful online tools I have ever come across.

One of the major discoveries that I came across with Voyeur was that I realized it will take me to direct themes within the play.  My favourite tools became the Word Cloud, Word Trends frequency chart, and the Words in the Entire Corpus tool:

I began to correlate these three tools into finding different themes within Hamlet and how the terms were related according to how many times they occurred together or apart and so on.  When I was fiddling around with the program, I was inspired by Katy’s idea of taking a modified version of 3.4 and uploading it onto Voyeur.  I decided to go onto Sparknotes and then proceeded to create a copied and pasted document of 3.4 in the modern text version (check out No Fear Shakespeare for Hamlet).  I then compared the major terms in both versions, and also uploaded both at the same time and compared the two.  I am still looking deeper into this but what I have concluded so far is that the concept of “good” versus “evil” is a more evident theme in the modern text including the words “virtue”, “heaven”, and “devil”.

When you notice the repetition among certain terms and how they interlace you can then start asking deeper questions like I did by comparing the original and modern texts.  TAPoR is another tool that is similar to Voyeur where there is a word count (and other things I don’t know about yet until the group presentations!) but without the visual components.  For me, as a visual learner, the visual components are what make Voyeur special and interesting to play around with.  However, there are definitely some tools on Voyeur that are unnecessary.  If you didn’t see my previous post called “Are these necessary?” (check it out here!: “Are these necessary?“), I will explain – some of the tools are quite repetitive and appear almost “complicated” because Voyeur already has other tools that do the same thing in a more clear manner. For example, these tools (Word Fountain, Lava, and Knots):

all seem hard to read and understand.  Some of the comments I received on my previous post about these tools said they are visually appealing (maybe) but agreed that they are hard to understand.  So why have them?  Perhaps I should keep an open mind but so far I don’t see their significance!  As a group, we Voyeurans (can that be a word now?) found little use for not only the above tools I just mentioned but also some other visually confusing and also repetitive tools on Voyeur.  There is always room for improvement when it comes to technology.

Are these necessary?


I think my fellow Voyeur group members will agree, but the Knot tool, Lava tool, and Word Fountain tool (above) seem quite useless compared to the other tools on Voyeur.  I guess it provides an alternate visual representation of the text but to me it seems unclear and visually “messy”.  What do you guys think?

Getting Off on a Bad Foot

Admittedly, my first taste of Voyeur was tainted by it having been the only tool tutorial I had missed out on.  That having been said, I learned what I could from the video and web tutorials available online.  This was an immediate drawback to the tool for me as it all seemed very relative to previous text analysis tools and was presented it in somewhat of a bland fashion. In addition, the online tutorials created an image of an overly complex application of which the payout was not worth its difficulties.  In light of this, it seemed all too unfortunate that Voyeur, irony of ironies, was the tool assigned to me.
Post contract discussion and signing with fabulous Group D, I set about that very evening devoted to Voyeur and determined to unravel its bland mysteries…
As it turned out, Voyeur (formerly known as “Voyant”) has and continues to contribute to my more complete understanding of Hamlet.  Moreover, I was taken off-guard when I realized how entirely mistaken I was by labeling the program as “bland.”  As began to immerse myself into the aid and although it was a bumpy road in trying to understand how to achieve any analytical directives, I found myself enraptured with the endless possibilities of “word trends” and similar word frequency monitors and charts.  In the screenshot provided below, one can easily see how much you can read from the simplicity of searching the word “or.”  Squared off in red is the “segments” option where the user can select the amount of segments in which to stretch or squish the specific “revealed text,” in our case: Hamlet.  I have chosen 5 segments so as to better view my search results within the chart as Hamlet has 5 Acts, the math is pretty straight forward.
Additionally, squared off in blue in the same screenshot below, deeper exploration of the text is at the users fingertips as the “corpus reader” is open directly beside all of the companion exploration tools.  Aside from providing visualizations of the word frequencies, side blue bars of varying strengths guide you to the heaviest densities of your searched word.  Clicking on one of these bars (located to the left of the text) brings you directly to the specific segment in the play and highlights each searched word within the text.  Using the provided example “or,” in the blue square, a perfect example of the juxtaposition of the usage of the word.  Especially with the use of “or,” contrasting words like “heaven” and “hell” are set against each other and provide scrumptious brain-food for thought.  In my case, I was spurred on by this specific search and borrowed many of the opposing words I found and came up with some of my own, to discover what other secrets lie within the play.

When I met with Group D, we Voyeur’s shared our personal findings and experiences with the tool that we had discovered independently.  This added even more intrigue to Voyeur and its flexibility as  members of my group taught me additional pros, among them: it is completely customizable!  Aside from the website of origin, Voyeur has a site that allows users to blend their own skins depending on what you want to play around with or favoured gadgets (such as “bubblelines.”)  In the second screenshot, a simple breakdown of how this works is shown: just drag and drop!

As we’re all still experimenting with Voyeur, not all is uncovered yet.  However, as of yet the pros far out-weigh the cons.  Such cons being the bumpy road to discovery and some text visualizations rely heavily on java script: a highly fallible script reader, this shortcoming falling more so on Java and less on the program Voyant.
The experimentation has been more than entertaining with Voyeur, and as a result has already become my favourite tool, to my pleasant surprise.  Personally, I have a high preference for critical writing and analysis, and so the ability to broaden my own understanding of each play, act and/or scene is boundlessly amusing.  I look forward to discovering more independently and with my group.


Voyeur: My initial thoughts and responses in Phase 1

Before I began working on this project I did not look at Voyeur at all except in the work shop when it was briefly explained.  All I remembered from the workshop on Voyeur was that there was some sort of bubble chart and tree chart involved.  When I began to fiddle around with Voyeur (or Voyant) I quickly realized there was far more to Voyeur than a bubble chart.  My group and I discovered it was actually a median with sixteen tools that allows you to customize your own page to how you would like to analyze the text.  These sixteen tools are all very similar; they differ mainly by frequency and visual elements.  You just choose your own tools and create your own page.  So if you are someone who likes to compare words, characters, and themes with more of a visual component then you can customize the page to fit with your choice of visual tools.  If you prefer frequency charts and specific numbers, than you can analyze the text with the frequency tools.

Once my group and I began to explore Voyeur and all the tools on our own, we all found it to be very user friendly.  Words are easy to find and compare within a large text by clicking onto it in the text or chart.  Voyeur highlights each time the word appears within the text.  If you clicked on “love”, for example, in the word cloud or any other tool you choose to use, it instantly highlights the word ‘love’ each time it appears.  You can upload your own pdf files into Voyeur to analyze it or you can copy and paste the links.  Voyeur also allows you to take away any words you do not need.  For example, if you upload 3.4 of Hamlet, words such as “and”, “it”, “I”, and so on appear as most frequent.  However, you can take those words out of the text by using an option to do so.  This then allows you to see the important themes more clearly in the visual and frequency tools.

One of the major downfalls I found with Voyeur is that the program does not give you any clear directions to follow.  You have to play around with it and not get frustrated when you cannot figure something out easily.  Another disadvantage is that the frequency of a particular word might not be accurate.  For example, my group and I compared the words “good” and “evil”.  ‘Good’ appeared more frequently than ‘evil’ on the word cloud tool.  But when we looked at the actual pdf text we realized that Voyeur was picking up on ‘good’ in words like “good night”.  As you can see, this can be a problem because if we had not realized this we would have come to the conclusion that ‘good’ as a theme is spoken more often than ‘evil’.

My main goal now is to come up with a clear hypothesis to focus on in 3.4, similar to how we focused on the Oedipus complex in our Wednesday lecture, so that I can find out more glorious things about all that is Hamlet with the help of Voyeur. Here is a link to all the various Voyeur Tools that I mentioned.  You can see an individual image of each tool if you scroll down.  Check it out!