So, I tried to play around with Voyant and I think the difficult part is figuring out what you might possibly want to look for. It’s fun to just plug something in and see what happens, but then, it begs the questions…what am I looking at? what does this all mean? why do these lines and patterns matter?
For my project, I looked Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto and was just trying to see if there were any patterns. Since the text relates to young women and knights, I figured looking at young, lady, and knight might yield something interesting. There seems to be some sort of increase of those words around the same parts of the novel, with a large increase in the use of knight in the middle. I’m sure I could find other patterns, but given that I didn’t really have a hypothesis prior to starting my search, I didn’t know what I wanted to look for.
I did try to compare a number of different novels to each other, but it seemed to be easier to just look at one.
I looked at some of the projects that were nominated for the 2014 DH awards and found the Annotation Studio project to be really interesting and intriguing. Throughout our exploration of DH projects, I’ve been trying to find a connection between these projects and pedagogy. I really wanted to find something that I could easily use in the classroom and that would be more than just a cool tool.
This project seems to incorporate many of those elements of a standard DH project, including being open source, it’s a Beta project in development through MIT, and it includes a number of case studies in various disciplines. The project’s architecture seems to be more of a system of user-input (the students input their own annotations for a text) and then there is a graphic display that shows how they read through the text. There is also a comparison element of the graph (similar to Voyant’s comparison tool) where multiple students’ annotations can be compared, so a professor can see how different students read the same type of material.
One of the case studies explained how a professor had students annotate the Chapter 4 of Frankenstein (the Creation chapter) in their own books and then go online and annotate using Annotation Studio. Then, they were tasked with looking up answers to some of the questions that they posed or that their classmates posed. Also, the professor asked students to examine the following questions: “Did multiple readings of a certain passage suggest meanings they did not see the first time? Does Shelley use certain references or kinds of language for a particular effect? What parts of the chapter seem most energetic and immediate? Did students see a change from the opening to the closing sentences in the focus of the chapter?”
This project seems to incorporate both close and distant reading, and I really think this tool could be really useful to students who don’t see the value in annotations. If I were to incorporate this into a class, I would probably start with uploading my own annotations to use a case study for students. Also, I think by limiting the annotations to one chapter or important section of a text allows the students to really engage with the text in that section (ie, they don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of material).