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.


DocuBurst is Bursting with Information?

I used DocuBurst for the first time tonight…and I’m still deciding how I think it went. (As a side note, Docuburst is a free online tool that allows the user to visualize content of their own work or published work. The user can search a specific word in a maximum of two documents in order to discover where the word is used or how often it is used. Docuburst calls this word a “root word” because they search through the document for that word and words like it.) I searched in their already created documents; I compared the use of “monster” inĀ Wuthering Heights to Jekyll and Hyde. Docuburst gave me a wonderful visualization of the word in the texts. The “radial sunburst” diagram, as Docuburst calls it, organizes words based on their meaning (and based on the root word) and is color coded to show how often they are used. The visualization includes character names that are linked to the words on the sunburst diagram. This could be a really great tool for researchers, especially students. It allows the user to go in depth with specific texts in order to find patterns or significant points that must be looked at in closer detail.

That being said, I found Docuburst a bit hard to use and understand. It took me a few tries to figure out whether I could use one of their documents or my own. Once I figured out how to work the search engine, it was easy to manipulate. However, when Docuburst gave me my results I was slightly confused at what I was looking at. I had to go back and read the database’s in order to uncover the meaning behind the diagrams I was given. However, once I figured out what the sunburst diagram and the visualization were supposed to show, I still didn’t fully understand my results It seemed their was so much material on the page my eye couldn’t process it. I was also confused at the color coding because their was no menu to tell me what color meant which.

Maybe you can help me uncover the meaning behind the results. Here are my Docuburst results for you to look at:


(One possibility for my confusion at my results could be that my search wasn’t a very good one…)

Nevertheless, I do think that DocuBurst is a wonderful tool and has the potential to be very helpful in the future!

I’ll keep playing around with it and let you know how it goes!