Earhart on Voyant

This week’s “weekly create” is to play around with a tool of our choice. Since I wasn’t too thrilled about Docuburst (see Docuburst is Bursting with Information?) I decided to play around with a tool that is much more comprehensible and helpful.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to Voyant!

Voyant is a tool that allows you to copy and paste text or upload a document. Voyant takes the text you give it and creates a word cloud from it. The word cloud contains the words that are repeated most throughout the text. The larger the word, the more often the word appears in the text.

I have to be honest though. This wasn’t my first time using Voyant. I’ve looked at Voyant before and created one or two word clouds to test it out and see how it worked. However, it was my first time using Voyant for academic purposes and that is what I want to talk to you about.

Allow me to explain…

For class this week I am leading a discussion of Amy E. Earhart’s “Challenging Gaps: Redesigning Collaboration in the Digital Humanities” (see Collaborating in the Humanities to Create the Digital Humanities). I used Voyant to help me understand Earhart’s main points and to help me plan my discussion. Here is the word cloud Voyant gave me:

Earhart on Voyant

The first thing I noticed was that to, and, that, of, & in are used the most in her work. While knowing this information has the potential to be helpful, it wasn’t the kind of information I was interested in. If I had time (and the patience) I could have gone through her work and deleted every to, and, that of & in. Doing that would have narrowed my search results to the important words, the words that express her main ideas. Instead, I worked with what I had and looked for the words that were slightly smaller in the word cloud. Those words included humanities, digital, project, work, and collaboration. Since Voyant not only gives the user a word cloud, but a list of how many times a word is used in the work, I was able to see that although collaboration is the main idea of the work, it is only used 38 times whereas the word “humanities” is used 84 times. Interestingly, the word “we” is used 58 times, which suggests the author’s openness to collaboration and teamwork within her own work.

The information Voyant gave me was helpful because it highlighted what I should pay attention to in Earhart’s work. It also provoked questions about Earhart’s work and ideas that helped shape my discussion. In essence, it practiced “distant reading” so I could close read better.

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