Text-Analysis Unconference: Treating Texts as Data

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If texts – from survey transcripts to Shakespearean drama to social-media posts — are the objects of your research, you might benefit from using a computer to extend your analysis. Benefits include counting words, identifying topics, or analyzing sentiments. Text analysis is complex, but you don’t need a degree in statistics or computer science to use its tools. For instance, they can do simple comparisons between texts, like comparing the most frequent words in one text to those in another.

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John Donne and the Sonnet Problem


What makes a sonnet? For most early modern examples, the answer is clear: a 14-line rhyming poem, its form either Shakespearean (three quatrains and a couplet) or Petrarchan (an octave and a sestet). There are exceptions to those formal rules, but most sonnets meet them.

Formal rules are the conventional answer. And that answer works for conventional sonnets, which are the vast majority of sonnets.

But if you enforce formal rules too rigorously, you encounter a few interesting problems. These are the problems that my project is investigating. Moments’ Monuments: The ACL Database is collecting as many sonnets as possible, so I can get a more definitive answer to this question: Is the sonnet a form or a genre? The trouble is, you need to decide first what qualifies as a sonnet.

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Methodical methodologies

Doug Knox’s comment on my post about Encoding and Interpretation sent me to Stephen Ramsay’s paper “The Meandering through Textuality Challenge” (MLA, 2011).

Ramsay investigates the “digging into data” metaphor — widely used in the DH community because of its formalized support and recognition across multiple funding bodies. But this metaphor suffers (Ramsay writes) from what Neal Stephenson calls “metaphor shear“: essentially, we take it too literally. Continue reading “Methodical methodologies”

Digital Humanities @ RSA 2012

The results are in; RSA 2012 will have four papers in SHARP-sponsored panels on digital research in early modern books. This is from the original CFP:

What are digital humanists doing now with early modern books and manuscripts? Ann M Blair recently argued that medieval and early modern systems of “managing textual information in an era of exploding publications” are precedents for modern information management systems. Do early reference books, annotations and compilations inform, anticipate, or otherwise influence our computer-assisted thinking?

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