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The Project

Initial Ideas

The whole idea of this project is to break away from traditional academic assessment and from conventional analysis of literary texts. I wanted to create a project which combined a literary text with the digital humanities in order to create a visual presentation of my analysis of a contemporary novel.

During one of my seminars Dr Michael Goodman presented his PhD project ‘Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive’ which I thought was an incredible idea of combining literary texts and digital software. Michael took various illustrations of characters from Victorian editions of William Shakespeare’s plays and created an archive which included information such as tags, the illustrator and the publisher information. I took great inspiration from Michael’s project and I started to think about whether I could create a similar on a smaller scale. My main research interest is in contemporary literature (twentieth century-present) and I wanted to combine my research interest with digital humanities, visual presentation and off-the-shelf digital software.

In the initial proposal for my project I had two main ideas which I wanted to turn into a reality. The first idea is a comparison between how urban environments such as London are illustrated in photography and other visual formats in contemporary culture and how these environments are constructed in contemporary literature. My second idea was going to look at creating a project which analysed how the different ways the same character such as Smaug from The Hobbit  was depicted in the various editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. I settled on the second idea to create a project which focused on illustrations of a specific character in various editions of the same literary text.

However when I met with my supervisor Julia Thomas and we discussed the ideas I had for my project she informed me that majority of the illustrations would be projected by copyright. Julia suggested a good idea to combat the copyright issue which was to focus on illustrations from texts which were published prior to the nineteenth century as Michael did for his project. Despite this good idea I wanted to continue to develop my interest in contemporary literature by using digital humanities in some format.  Following further discussion and brainstorming of ideas with Julia, I decided on my project which was to create a visual mapping of a contemporary novel using off-the-self digital software. The visual map will consist of three keys elements from the novel:the thematic elements, events and episodes.

The initial ideas for novels are:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Kite Runner by  Khaled Hosseini

1984 by George Orwell

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by  Karen Joy Fowler.

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The Project

Initial Ideas

The whole idea of this project is to break away from traditional academic assessment and from conventional analysis of literary texts. I wanted to create a project which combined a literary text with the digital humanities in order to create a visual presentation of my analysis of a contemporary novel.

During one of my seminars Dr Michael Goodman presented his PhD project ‘Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive’ which I thought was an incredible idea of combining literary texts and digital software. Michael took various illustrations of characters from Victorian editions of William Shakespeare’s plays and created an archive which included information such as tags, the illustrator and the publisher information. I took great inspiration from Michael’s project and I started to think about whether I could create a similar on a smaller scale. My main research interest is in contemporary literature (twentieth century-present) and I wanted to combine my research interest with digital humanities, visual presentation and off-the-shelf digital software.

In the initial proposal for my project I had two main ideas which I wanted to turn into a reality. The first idea is a comparison between how urban environments such as London are illustrated in photography and other visual formats in contemporary culture and how these environments are constructed in contemporary literature. My second idea was going to look at creating a project which analysed how the different ways the same character such as Smaug from The Hobbit  was depicted in the various editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel. I settled on the second idea to create a project which focused on illustrations of a specific character in various editions of the same literary text.

However when I met with my supervisor Julia Thomas and we discussed the ideas I had for my project she informed me that majority of the illustrations would be projected by copyright. Julia suggested a good idea to combat the copyright issue which was to focus on illustrations from texts which were published prior to the nineteenth century as Michael did for his project. Despite this good idea I wanted to continue to develop my interest in contemporary literature by using digital humanities in some format.  Following further discussion and brainstorming of ideas with Julia, I decided on my project which was to create a visual mapping of a contemporary novel using off-the-self digital software. The visual map will consist of three keys elements from the novel:the thematic elements, events and episodes.

The initial ideas for novels are:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Kite Runner by  Khaled Hosseini

1984 by George Orwell

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by  Karen Joy Fowler.

 

The Journal

Who is for some Distant Reading?

Close text analysis is the primary weapon in your arsenal as a literature student, a skill which has be developed and finally tuned throughout your academic career. Until I encountered Franco Moretti’s distant reading, I was fully convinced that close reading should be the primary methodology used by academics when analysing literary texts.

However in Moretti’s article he proposes that students should swap their books and close reading methodologies for computerised graphs and statics charts. Moretti argues students would be able to unearth aspects such as how often a word appears in the text which could help them understand the genre of a text. On my first reading I was not convinced by his argument nor was I in any hurry to forget I had ever encountered critical textual analysis.

Initially I was completely dismissive of Moretti’s argument because I couldn’t comprehend how academics could refer to themselves as experts or specialists in a genre or an era of literature, if they don’t read or close read literary works. As proposed by Moretti, their expert status within a literary era or field would be acquired by feeding a literary text into a computer and constructing a graph instead of a textual analysis. Personally I feel in order to discuss a text in detail I would have had to read the text from the first page to the last. Rachel Cordasco argues against Moretti’s concept in which she states that ‘books are not data’, an argument which at first I was inclined to agree with.

When I encountered Moretti’s distant reading I had two key issues with his concept. The first issue is illustrated by Kathryn Schulz diagram of Hamlet in Moretti’s distant reading concept.

data

Schulz’s diagram of Hamlet visually demonstrates how Moretti’s distant reading can work as a methodology for analysing literary works. However, looking at the diagram I am left with question if you hadn’t read Hamlet how would you could be aware of the link between Horatio and Fortinbras? You would understand that they are linked in some fashion but you wouldn’t know how they were linked without reading the play.

Moretti’s dismissiveness of close reading is another issue I encountered while analysing distant reading, he presents a clear cut argument of calling for close reading to be dropped all together in favour of distant reading.

Despite my issues with DR, after discussing Moretti’s ideas in seminars and with my fellow peers I am gradually starting to see the benefits of distant reading and how it could support my academic research. I will continue to use close critical reading as my primary methodology and use distant reading to complement and support my critical textual analysis.

Distant reading is a key methodology for academics who are working to particular deadlines with short timelines because it will provide a large amount of information in a short space of time. In contrast close textual analysis provides academics with a small amount of in depth detail over a longer period of time. This is why both methodologies should be used in conjunction with the other in order for the student to showcase their research and close critical reading skills.

Books are not data. Books are not just words on a page. Books can be both in the form of digital humanities.

The Blog

Is Cultural Analytics crackpot theorizing or a cutting edge research methodology?

We are currently at a stage of academic research in which the ‘statistical analysis of literature has gone from crackpot theorising to cutting edge research.’[1]   As I discussed in a previous post about Franco Moretti’s distant reading concept, the way in which English Literature can be approached and analysed is rapidly expanding. After initially being sceptical of other research methodologies the more research I do on the internet or in the library, the more convinced I am that other research methods should complement close textual analysis. As part of the set reading for a seminar we had to read Lev Manovich’s article ‘How to Compare One Images’ in which he presents the research methodology ‘Cultural Analytics’.

In his article Manovich describes cultural analytics as ‘the use of visualization to explore large sets of images and video. These visualizations can use existing metadata […] and also new metadata added by researchers via annotation or coding.[2] Manovich’s concept is similar to Moretti’s distant reading as it uses statistical analysis and computer systems to investigate and explore large sets of big data. The primary contrast between cultural analytics and distant reading is Moretti’s concept analyses large sets of textual data whereas Manovich’s concept examines large sets of images and videos. As with Moretti’s distant reading, cultural analytics was a research methodology I was unaware of until I encountered it on this module. One question which is continuously encroaching on my academic research is ‘How does the notion of scale affect humanities and social science research?’[3] The purpose of this post is to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of working with big data using the cultural analytics methodology.

So let’s start with the strengths of Manovich’s concept and the opportunities it can offer an academic who is using this particular research methodology. Similar to Moretti’s distant reading using cultural analytics is a useful method to use if you are working to a deadline as it can provide a large amount of data in a short space of time. Manovich argues that humans do not have the natural visual system to notice subtle visual differences in images neither do we have an adequate vocabulary or metalanguage to describe these visual differences. However Manovich proposes by using digital image processing and computers which are capable of ‘feature extraction’ academic researchers can measure anything from presence of texture to number of edges on an image. So not only can cultural analytics provide a large amount of data in a short space of time, it can also provide data which is so in depth and detailed it exceeds human visual capabilities.

A significant part of my project is thinking about how I can represent a large amount of textual analysis in a visual format. In Morris Eaves’ article ‘Picture Problems: X-Editing Images 1992-2010’ he discusses the limitations of human based research into describing the details of large sets of big data. These limitations are illustrated by Eves through his discussion of the William Blake archive. Eves argues the central issue with human based research and analysis is a lack of awareness of methodical boundaries.[4] For example if I was describing an image from the William Blake Achieve, how much detail do I need to include in the descriptions and tags to offer adequate information for other academics and researchers? Do I have the necessary vocabulary or metalanguage to describe the details of the image?  Manovich’s article examines how the limitations of human capabilities which Eaves outlines can be counteracted by a strict methodology and suitable technology. Manovich uses an image set from the Japanese comics Manga to illustrate the importance of a strict research method and an accessible digital technology.  Manovich uses a scatter plot graph with two axes, an X-axis to represent the standard deviation to measure variability. The second axis is the Y-axis which represents the entropy over greyscale values. The digital scatter plot illustrates that by using a strict methodology there is no chance of losing track of your original methodology or thesis (a common problem in academic research).

Spontaneous discovery is one of the stand out strengths of cultural analytics because it allows for unprompted discovery of interesting patterns in an image set. Manovich argues spontaneous discovery of patterns isn’t possible with other consumer software and web services such as slide show because images can only be sorted by a few parameters such as uploaded date or file name. In the final part of the article Manovich discusses human defamliarisation with computers which I interpreted as a massive strength within his concept of cultural analytic. The ability to analyse a set of images along a singular visual dimension allows researchers to see what they had not noticed during previous analysis. We can use cultural analytics to ‘defamiliarize our perceptions of visual media cultures.’[5]

Despite the strengths of cultural analytics, I will not be using Manovich’s concept in my project because I am working with texts rather than images. Another reason for avoiding cultural analytics as a research methodology is because I am still sceptical as to how accessible and understandable it is for both academics and non-academics.

Referenced Works

[1.] Available at http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2017/03/revenge-maths-mob?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/revengeofthemathsmobwhyliteratureistheultimatebigdatachallenge

[2.] Available at http://softwarestudies.com/cultural_analytics/2011.How_To_Compare_One_Million_Images.pdf

[3.] Ibid.

[4.] Available at http://digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/3/3/000052/000052.html

[5.] Available at http://softwarestudies.com/cultural_analytics/2011.How_To_Compare_One_Million_Images.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blog, The Project

Visualizing literary texts: researching existing projects

This is a post which I have created to illustrate the research I have done into existing projects which attempted to visualize literary works.

Project Management and Research Methods

Visualising literary texts research

LOTR

Created by: Emil Johansson

Type of project: Personal interest (non-profit)

Project status: The project is updated regularly and sustained through public donations.

Copyright status: Protected (Since 2014)

Software Type: Unknown

Open Access Software Status: Unknown

When was the project created: 2012

Project Description: The LOTR is a project which is a visualising of Tolkien’s works in a digital format. The project is known for being the most developed and ever updating genealogy of the historical timeline of Middle Earth. The project also includes the statistics of the population in terms of the species, gender and race of Middle-Earth.

Visualised Works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

Project Features

-Interactive map (includes timelines, places and events)

-A timeline of the history of Middle-Earth

-The statistics of Middle-Earth. This section includes:

  • The population of each race & gender
  • The life expectancy of different species
  • The age distribution of each species
  • The population of each species
  • The longevity of men
  • A list of the oldest to the youngest of each species.

-A time and distance travelled graph in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

-A section which lets you search various characters and explore the connections between different characters in the trilogy.

-A blog section which has multiple contributors which illustrates the different stages of the project and the transition of turning a literary text into a digital visualisation.

-An about section which provides a brief description of what the LOTR is, who the creator is, the creator’s acknowledgments and a wall of thanks.

-A character encyclopaedia

-An analysis of Tolkien’s books which includes keyword frequency, character mentions, sentiment analysis, word count, chapter lengths, quotes, infographics and humour subsection.

-An online store where you purchase items such as an illustration of the dwarf’s family tree.

-A contact section if people need to contact the site administrators for any reason.

Fantastic Maps

Created by: Johnathan Roberts

Type of project: Personal Interest (non-profit)

Project status: Accessible but not updated regularly

Copyright status: Unknown

Software Type: Wacom Intuios4, Wacom Graphire4, Adobe Photoshop 6 Extended CS6 and Adonit Jot Touch

Open Access Software Status: Each software varies in price depending on the quality of the software.

When was the project created: 2010

Project Description: The Fantastic Maps is a website created by Johnathan Roberts which consists of maps of imaginary and fictitious locations from novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Visualised Works: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Project Features

The home page is a blog which Roberts uses to post about certain projects and how to create specific aspects of the maps landscape such as hills or trees.

-The maps section is an archive of different maps from outside landscapes to indoor battlement maps. This section is divided into five sections: World Maps, Regional Maps, City Maps, Indoor Battlement Maps, Outdoor Battlement Maps and a Logo and Heraldry section.

-Game of Thrones section is a mini archive of the official maps from the novel with short descriptions and explanations of each one below each map.

-An online shop where you can purchase some of Johnathan Robert’s work on maps.

-The how to draw a map section is a step by step guide showing you (using specific software such as Photoshop) to create and draw your own map with extreme attention to detail.

The recommended tools section is a list of tools with a brief description of each one which Roberts recommends for other people attempting to create similar projects.

-The tutorial section is focused on teaching individuals how to create specific aspects of their maps such as how to blend colour onto a tree or hill once you have sketched out the outline.

-The free maps section offers free downloadable maps which have been created by Johnathan Roberts.

-The videos section is linked to Robert’s YouTube channel in which he presents a step by step video of how to create maps and specific aspects of maps.

A Visualization of Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 trip to England

Created by: Bill Ferster

Type of project: Personal Interest (non-profit)

Project status: Accessible and sustained by funding from the University of Virginia’s Sciences, Humanities & Arts Network of Technological Initiatives (SHANTI)

Copyright status: Unknown

Software Type: Visual Eyes

Open Access Software Status: Free and downloadable software

When was the project created: Unknown

Project Description: The Visualization of Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 trip to England project is a static map in which learners can explore his journey by dragging a slider across a timeline (which animates Jefferson’s movement in England.  By dragging the slider across the timeline learners are presented with Jefferson’s movements while in England such as sending letters and attending the theatre. The search tab on the side of the map allows you to search for particular events, people and places within his journey.

Visualised Works: The Letters of Thomas Jefferson

Project Features

The first section is Jefferson’s travels in which you are able to follow his journey across England and his travels around London. The project uses a small portrait of Jefferson as the icon which moves from street to street depending on the specific event. There are also small icons which the learner can press which provide more detail about a specific event such as Jefferson attending the theatre.

The second section is a static map which visualises the transportation of mail from Europe, England and United States of America both for Jefferson and from Jefferson to various recipients. The learner can drag a slider along a timeline on the bottom of the map in order to track the transportation of Jefferson’s mail from country to country.

-The third section is a visualisation of Jefferson’s Retirement Library which is colour coded to separate the different type and subject of each text.

Mapping Texts

Created by: University of North Texas and Stanford University

Type of project: Transforming printed newspapers into a digital format

Project status: Accessible and sustained by National Endowment for the Humanities

Copyright status: Copyright protected by University of North Texas and Stanford University in 2011

Software Type: Unknown

Open Access Software Status: Unknown

When was the project created: 2011

Project Description: Mapping Texts is a collaboration between scholars, staff and students at Stanford University and the University of North Texas. The main primary material for this project was 232,500 pages that were digitized and converted to plain text using optical character recognition (OCR). This collection was processed through several different computational analyses to help the team explore the possibilities for computer aided “distant reading” of large document collections.

Visualised Works:  Texas Digital Newspaper Collection’s archive of historic documents

Project Features:

The home page provides a brief description of the primary aim of the project, what intuitions created the project, the primary resources they are using and a link to their two interfaces.

-The mission section elaborates more on the primary aim of the project and the specific ideas behind creating this type of project. In the section the creators discuss their primary sources in greater detail and provide links to their prototypes. The final part of this section refers to the partnership between the two intuitions and provides details of where the work is carried out such as the Bill Lane Center for the American West.

-The people section is list of the individuals who have worked on the project as well providing information such as their specialised project job and contact details.

-The mapping quality section is the first of their two interfaces which looks at the quality of mapping. The interactive map allows the learner to click on various cities within America such as Dallas and see the percentage of good and bad words within a number of newspaper publications from that area. At the bottom of the static map is a timeline of events that happened in Texas between 1830 and 1910.

-The mapping language section is the second of their two interfaces which looks at the word counts of specific words within a certain era of Texan history such as World War II. The learner is able to select and deselect certain newspapers in order to show different statistics from the particular era. At the top of the screen is a timeline which the learner can drag a slider back and forth in order to gain different statistics from the particular era they are focusing on.

-The publications section is a list of the various publications the two institutions of University of North Texas and Stanford University have produced in relation to the project.

-The data section is a detailed description of the amount and type of data they used for the project. A list of cities and publications in the document archive as well the three sections (word counts, named entity recognition and topic models) the data was divided into.

On Origin of the Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces

Created by: Ben Fry

Type of project: Personal interest (non-profit)

Project Status: Accessible but the project has been completed so it is no longer updated.

Copyright Status: Copyright protected by Ben Fry in 2009.

Software Type: Unknown

Open Access Software Status: Unknown

When was the project created: 2009

Project Description: Ben Fry’s Origin of the Species project visualises how Charles Darwin’s text grew from around 150,000 words to more than 190,000 words over six editions.

Visualised Works: On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Project Features: The project consists of one feature a static listing of all the words within each chapter of Darwin’s text. The project maps the text’s chapters to cycle through each edition’s addenda. This feature—with buttons to pause, accelerate, decelerate, and restart visualizations.

Walking Ulysses

Created by: Boston College

Visualised Works: Ulysses by James Joyce

Type of project: Personal interest (non-profit)

Project Status: Accessible

Copyright Status: Copyright protected by Trustees of Boston Colleges.

Software Type: Unknown

Open Access Software Status: Unknown

When was the project created: Unknown

Project Description and Features: The project seeks to recreate the Dublin (June 16, 1904) navigated by Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. The project allows the learner to track the characters’ movement on a hundred-year-old map. Walking Ulysses enlivens those wanderings with sketches, images, audio recordings and passages.

 

The Project, Uncategorized

Project and Research Management Journal Entry Two

SET265 Project Management and Advanced Research

Research Project Journal Entry Two

Date: 23/02/2017

Student’s name: Will Humphrey

Title of project: A Visual Mapping of a Contemporary Novel

Period covered by this form: Contemporary Literature

Aims and Objectives for the project:

  • Create a visual map of a contemporary novel using off-the-shelf digital software.
  • Create a project which combines visual presentation, literary texts and the digital humanities.
  • To showcase my analysis of a literary text such as a novel in a different format from the academic essay.
  • I want to create project which will be able to be sustained and used after my project has finished.

Specific tasks and goals for the period covered:

  • Create a visual mapping of the events, thematic elements and episodes from a novel.
  • Make it open for the public to able to contribute additional information or tags.
  • Create a project which is accessible and understandable for anyone not just literature academics and scholars.

Were targets met? If not, please provide details:

  • Not yet as I am still in the research stages of discovering a suitable off-the-shelf software to use.
  • Not as yet as like the off-the-shelf software I am still researching a suitable novel to visually map.

Next steps:

  • Research what off-the-shelf software is available and accessible in order to create my project.
  • Research and read a suitable novel which I could visually map out showing the events, episodes and thematic elements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Project

Project and Research Management Journal Entry One

SET265 Project Management and Advanced Research

Research Project Journal Entry One

Date: 16/02/2017

Student’s name: Will Humphrey

Title of project: Smaug: A digital archive of illustrations from different editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel.

Period covered by this form: Contemporary Literature

Aims and Objectives for the project:

  • Create a digital archive of various illustrations of Smaug from The Hobbit from different editions of J.R.R.Tolkien’s novel.
  • Create a project which combines visual presentation, literary texts and the digital humanities. To showcase my analysis of a literary text such as a novel in a different format from the academic essay.
  • I want to create project which will be able to be sustained and used after my project has finished.

Specific tasks and goals for the period covered:

  • Identify the different approaches each illustrator has taken when creating each illustration of Smaug.
  • Make it open for the public to able to contribute additional information or tags.
  • Identify the differences and similarities between Tolkien’s textual description and the image the illustrator has produced.

Were targets met? If not, please provide details:

  • Unfortunately due to majority of the illustrations being copyright protected I could not continue with my desired project.
  • I am able to meet aims 2-4 with my new project idea which is a visual mapping of a contemporary novel.

Next steps:

  • I met with my supervisor Julia Thomas and we discussed the issue of copyright with my project. I told Julia the three key aims I wanted to get out of creating my project.
  • We discussed my research interests and aims for my project which lead me to a new proposal for my project. My new project is going to be a visual mapping a contemporary novel.
  • Research what off-the-shelf software is available and accessible in order to create my project.