Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities

The Oxford DH community gathered earlier this month for an interesting workshop entitled “Digital Impacts: Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities.”

Open Source blogger Mia Ridge, responding on a recent report on crowdsourcing in the humanities (Stuart Dunn, Mark Hedges), offered some insight into the re appropriation of the model from the business world to “form, nurture and connect with communities.” Blogging her impressions of the day, Ridge’s input is just another reason why blogging represents the potential for free information dissemination ( free DH Oxford workshop info for student bloggers in the Midwest and beyond!). In regards specifically to ‘sourcing cultural heritage content, I found Ridge’s definitions to be an open ended challenge: [crowdsourcing can be seen as]] “a form of engagement that contributes towards a shared, significant goal or research question by asking the public to undertake tasks that cannot be done automatically”…”productive public engagement with the mission and work of memory institutions.” The concept of such ‘citizen science’ is really something, particularly when it’s looking more and more like the results of serving content to the volunteering masses can have incredible results.


In considering the topic at hand, first and foremost it’s important to recognize that crowdsourcing, though it began in the business world, has definitely come a long way in its academic iteration. Always it seems that we in the library seek to push away from the branding and funneling down of business models so often imposed upon our work and services. Clearly we need a better analogy, a more resonant parallel. Terminology, though interestingly powerful in its own right, is less of the issue here than that of perception: librarians and DHers don’t want to be seen in a commercial light any more than we consider our work to be reductive in this sense. I’d argue that somewhere in the chain between student, administration, and information facilitator (instructor or librarian) there is a broken link. Students are becoming customers of their education in a way which isolates their experience to a dollar value amount- the very opposite information climate of ‘sourcing for its own educational sake.

The role of community is, unsurprisingly, a recurrent theme when we consider the crowdsourcing of culturally relevant materials. With the increase of OA initiatives across the board (huzzah!), it’s useful to consider the ways in which the ‘choir invisible’ interacts with broadly available info. The rash appearance of MOOCs is supportive evidence enough when it comes to the involvement of a wide audience with academic content, specifically within the humanities. While a useful tool in and of itself, I think there’s a lot to be learned when we consider how ‘sourcing effects the exchange knowledge within the academic communities. Particularly interesting is the concept of greater content quality through the inherent peer review aspect of crowdsourcing. It’s fascinating to think that we’re essentially dropping content into the network, running it through the various intellectual channels that humanity has to offer online, and plugging it back in. While this raises all manner of question about access (and, perhaps, what type of person participates in humanities related crowdsourcing?), but the potential is exciting.

Inside the Outside Box- “Doing Digital Humanities” in Libraries

The framing the digital humanities within a physical space, such as an academic library, is an emerging issue which Trevor Munoz blogged on a bit back. Joining Posner and a number of other players in the discussion, he brought to light the debate of what ‘doing’ DH truly means, and where (if anywhere) service  fits into the picture.

This is a topic in which I’m quite interested and there is much, much more to consider than I can fit into a short blog post. However, I’ll try to scatter out a few of my basic impressions.

I would argue that engaging faculty interest and supporting their work doesn’t have to be as complex as converting traditionalists or as  simple as digitizing work in the humanities. As a student working in and towards a public service oriented degree, I have less of an issue with the idea of DH including a service aspect within libraries. I can, however, see that terming DH work in this way is reductive in a way that doesn’t fully encapsulate the range of what DHers do. Instead, I think Munoz’ mention of making  “technology transfer” available to interested parties might constitute a ‘service’ that is fitting to DH within the library.  If we provide any ‘service,’ perhaps it’s in taking the initiative to include researching faculty from more traditional spheres within the nebulae of possibilities in DH work.

But this raises a few questions, I’d imagine. Why go to all that trouble? Why should I, Professor X(avier) who’s devoted my life and talent into developing my work uniquely, have to then turn ’round and extend the laurel to my peers (many of whom have likely always viewed me as an eccentric outlier)? It’s an entirely fair question, and one that I don’t really have an answer to. Perhaps there’s simply value in subverting the often secretive model of jealously guarding research in the funding climate of the ivory tower.  What if, in opening DH work to anyone who wanted to get on board, we were able to increase funding opportunities? Would grants then go to “undeserving” researchers who had clout in the traditional humanities but had gained traction by attached DH to their work? A debate for another post, but worth mentioning in the context of reaching out to the related entities of Munoz’ post.

As Munoz writes, “digital humanities in libraries isn’t a service and libraries will be more successful at generating engagement with digital humanities if they focus on helping librarians lead their own DH initiatives and projects.” I fully agree: instruction and cross training are out strongest tools for advocacy within the library and beyond. At the same time, libraries offer  the bonus of providing physical access to the tech in terms of hard/software which is, I think, crucial. As a newbie to the field, I can definitely say that it’s easy to forget that for every process there’s a human behind the machine asking questions. Empowering researchers to be themselves the man behind the curtain through demonstration (and play) is an enactive element that shouldn’t be ignored in considering the opening the field.

Along those lines, as with any discipline, the importance of ‘locating’ digital humanities can’t be overlooked. This is being done both literally and conceptually: on the one hand bringing DHers (along with cross trained staff) into the physical space of a library, while also communicating the emergent  history of DH to newbies in the field at all levels of potential for engagement. As Munoz writes, the”digital humanities involves research and teaching and building things and participating in communities both online and off.” I sincerely hope that bringing DH into the physical centre of a the academic library will maintain and encourage work that expands and builds the field.

Mapping Digital Exhibitions, Inroads

A topic which has been thematic for me during the course of this semester is the interactive component of  so much of what we find in the current digital humanities climate. On reflection, this really shouldn’t be surprising in the broader sense; despite the fact that my own work within the field of history was relatively insular, I suppose it can be  argued that the very impetus to maintain a cultural record of humanities related material is the preservation of a social narrative. Whether reflective of a general desire to record actual formative events, as with history, or seeking a greater understanding of “life, the universe, and everything” through the more interpretive arts of  philosophy, literature and (I would include) drama, we humans continue to maintain the memory of humanistic materials despite their relative lack of value to the immediate continuation of the species.

This is, of course, entirely from a survival standpoint: offer most people the option between a book of sublime poetry and a happy meal and cynicism will paint the usual response. What would we humanists be if we did not, from ages past, decry the lack of appreciation for that which we hold to be most essential? And that’s truly the key here: we continue to hold inquiry into the humanities as high art because it is crucial, somehow, despite the fact that it cannot feed or house us (as any graduate student in the field will tell you). Often we enter a field in the humanities for very personal, often entirely solo, reasons; we tap into the story of the past in history, the beauty of a novel that holds us in it’s thrall, the transformative moment of first stepping on stage. I have always thought that this impetus came from a greater desire to belong where we fit best, to be able to speak that language which came most natural to us as individuals. As we enter the Bacchic revels, mosh pit, poetry slam, cast party, or conference workshop we reach out to that narrative in a way that belies our first, insular impetus as individuals interacting with humanistic  inquiry.

This is what excites me most about the potential for DH work: extending what once was a scholar’s rapture at writing or reading something particularly sacred on a limited leaf or cave wall to the connective benefit of the many. Even within the academic community, the increased potential for not just sharing, but co-creating new materials as a joint venture across continents and language barriers speaks to the very reason why we study the humanities in the first place. Whether it’s the recreation of a physical space for conversation online such as David Rumsey’s “thinking machine” on Second Life,  gorgeous digital surrogates at the Bod and elsewhere improving access to delicate materials, or the presentation of digital museum exhibitions such as that found at the University of Chicago, it’s this expansion into greater realms of interaction that I look forward to.

“Dreams Awake”- USC’s Walden, A Game


For those of you who are fans of interactive, literature-based games such as Tale of Tales’ The Path, it won’t surprise you to learn that support for such cross-overs is extending its borders. More guided in focus than The Endless Forest, Walden, A Game offers players the chance to follow in Thoreau’s footsteps in the CG/video replicated environment of Walden Pond. In production at the University of Southern California and funded by Game Lab International, this new game made news headlines on receiving a 40,000 development grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2012. Lead game designer and associate professor Tracy Fullerton, interviewing with TIME Magazine, spoke to the artistic, world building aspect of the game’s design: “we anticipate a rich simulation of the woods, filled with the kind of detail that Thoreau so carefully noted in his writings.”

CaptureFirst edition from the Special Collections at Brown University

While the creation of such ‘art games’ might not broadly appeal to the general gamer base, a growing interest in the potential for games as an educational medium has taken off in the academic arena. The concept of allowing for renewed public engagement with the text is certainly worth noting. With the program homepage reporting that Walden, A Game “posits a new genre of play, in which reflection and insight play an important role in the player experience” it’s clear that such readings are taking on uncharted realms in regards to the depth of content and player experience. From an instructional standpoint, the potential to add sensory engagement in sight and sound to Walden is flat out exciting.  After all, it was Thoreau who wrote “how vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live;” perhaps with the introduction of active placement within a scaffolded narrative, new ‘new readings’ of texts which are generally relegated to page and screen will emerge.

Understandably, there is quite a bit of speculative literature regarding this type of integration between intellectual content in the humanities and games/gamer culture.  Jeremy Antly, writing for the Journal of Digital Humanities, brings many of these questions to the fore. Viewing games as a hybridized digital object, Antly calls for further integration between academic and “gamic spheres” to improve the utility and educational value of these crossovers. Writing for the same on the issues arising from classroom application of historical similation games Jeremiah McCall brings highlights the important point of disparity between gameplay and sound, scholarly content. Additionally, as is the case with Walden, A Game, player experience varies from the level of interaction and ability, factors which may interfere with the learned component embedded withing any simulation.

Do such games have more than a passing, niche interest value? As a historian, the potential to create encapsulated readings of how early millennium scholars have reinterpreted Thoreau is enough reason for me to suit up and game on. I’ll meet you by the shores of Walden Pond.


Born Analog- The Life Cycle of Digitized Materials

Throughout the arc of our course discussion, the delineative question of digital vs. digitized content has surfaced time and again. In writing I thought it helpful to consider first the more tangible, accessible of the two: the digitization of physical, analog materials. While considerably less interpretive and, to some, esoteric than digital content, the representative creation of digitized materials nevertheless provides interesting food for thought in relation to humanities resources. 

The latest edition out from The Magazine of Digital Library Research touches on this debate from the standpoint of libraries whom rely on accurate digital surrogates Article “The Digital-Surrogate Seal of Approval,” a joint effort from oddly similarly named researchers from  Standford and UC San Diego, works to address the need for standardization within this field. The digitization of “born-analog” materials, whatever their format, has become increasingly valuable to libraries as electronic publishing and demand for content available online grows. 

While I’m obliged to agree with the opinion hailing from rare books field (essentially that there can be no ultimate surrogate for an analog object), I certainly think there’s merit when it comes to digitized content for the purpose of reproduction. When libraries  and institutions reproduce materials, with one single scan they are providing the physical object with new life. Jacobs and Jacobs elaborate on the value of creating digital versions of print collections, supporting that such initiatives offer: “better access (faster, distributed, simultaneous), better preservation (protection of brittle originals from deterioration through use, potentially more secure long-term preservation of digital rather than fragile paper), better discovery (through full-text and faceted searching), enhanced usability (mashups, computational analysis, construction of digital corpora), better collection management (through shared storage and metadata management), and more.”

A Little Birdie Told Me…

The assignment to follow a variety of social media contributors for my Digital Humanities course coincided perfectly with a momentous occasion in my online presence. It was a thing I had promised myself I’d never consider, scoffed at the overeager zealousness of my peers, and in general enjoyed a sense of superiority for not having been duped into joining: Twitter. What could be more indicative of the ill-researched, short attention spanned, pop culture prostitution of the Myspace generation than a site which revolved around fitting a tiny, sans comic ship into a bottle and then advertising it on your Facebook feed? And the gullibility of my fangirl and boy friends who truly believed that their favorite sci-fi series actors where doing anything other than boosting their careers for free through a careful social networking campaign…I openly admit it- I hated Twitter and all the ilk whom associated themselves with this form of personal branding.

Now that that’s out of the way, as a new student to the School of Library and Information Science I’d received the advice that creating a strong online web presence was a crucial part of preparing for the job market. Flashes of deadjournal rants and embarrassing topdown Myspace profile shots spang to mind, a dichotomous parody of the concept; my web presence had always been more akin to a diary and postcards to friends than anything approaching a self-aware, intentional model. But within that frozen moment of contemplation was the seed of an idea. I’d begun to use the internet when I received my first computer at the end of high school and made my first AOL Online account to contact friends who had moved away for college. As a platform for conveying the experiential realities of our every day lives, web communiqué introduced an interesting aspect to interaction which I’d previously only known in the tiny, folded up notes of my secondary school days: a narrative.

And so:

I joined Twitter.

At first, I didn’t understand- who were all these people? And how were they connected to my fledgling profile (still, admittedly somewhat what in its infancy today)? When I “followed” and organization or institution, it wasn’t like “friending” an individual entity on the social media platforms I was accustomed to. A few factors soon became clear, and have become increasingly elucidated as my time on Twitter extends and expands. Firstly, in following an institution I was simultaneously engaging in both a close and distant activity. I was associating myself with an idea, a general concept in relation to a larger entity; at the same time I was opening up my feed to the individual (or individuals) who updated their group’s Twitter. 

For example, in the case of following Digital Humanities Now I am receiving updates on a theme. Ultimately this means I’m reading the opinonate selections of whomever or however many people update this feed without direct interface with or knowledge of whose work I’m reading. The anonymity of feeds like this is part of what makes internet communication essentially a shadow conversation (at the first level of interaction anyhow, and if you don’t take steps to acquire more data). One of the more important results of my new exposure to Twitter was that I learned that each person or organization you follow on Twitter serves an entirely different function. While DH Now might update regularly, providing information very much in the way searching through a new aggregator might,  other feeds offered something closer to what brought me online in the first place as an eighteen year old with a dial up connection and a flare for insomnia- personal connection and point of view on subjects of interest.

My first attempts to follow through with this assignment at the beginning of the semester brought me to a format I was more familiar with, the blog. Beginning with the University College London Centre for the Digital Humanities‘ blog, I was comforted by the framework of an academic institution blogging out their activities to relevant readers. Arguably, this was my first exposure to the lingo of DH (what’s thatcamp? I wondered), but moreover it was a great gateway into some very interesting work. What struck me most in reading through the Centre’s blog was simply how marvelously inclusive the digital outreach efforts are at UCL. Free e-learning unconferences (see, there’s that lingo again), podcasts, and workshops which I wistfully wished to be able attend.  Soon I was following Melissa Terras  and gaining a new insight: most digital humanists are not just renaissance women and men scholastically (literally, in some cases)- they set the standard for open sharing of skillset information interconnectivity.

 At first I had been concerned with the level of anonymity involved in social media networking efforts. How could anything so subject to being replaced by new updates from unknown writers ever provide the kind of solid academic content that I was used to? But, in a field such as the digital humanities,  this seems more like a benefit than a problem. Interdisciplinary work between scholars across the range of related fields is at the heart of so many DH projects and initiatives. The opportunity to glean new insight from the collective thinktank of so many ardent, creative minds has ultimately been an exciting introduction into the many possibilities of this field.

From following Terras on Twitter to leaping around, excitedly mining interesting feeds for yet more and more fascinating people and institutions to follow I realized that Twitter is like picking up selective business cards in the best convention you’ve ever been to. Business cards which talk and  work and play and occasionally retweet my links in a spinning, connective helix of free communication.

So, Twitter? I’m sold. Until we come up with the Next Generation holodeck, that is.


Shakespeare in the Machine

This week’s topic is one very near and dear to my heart: digital dramaturgy in Shakespearean theatre. While admittedly the majority of  tech inquiry into Shakespeare is from a literary standpoint, what makes this form of scholarship so exciting for me is the very act of engaging the public with his works. As a modern dramaturg, any work which highlights the accessibility of Shakespeare to new audiences, whether it be through text analysis, digital art, or simply rethinking how we present digital surrogates  for a wider audience to use and interact with is a worthwhile venture in and of itself.


In the rehearsal hall there are exist myriad interpretations of a given Shakespearean play. Generally, this work within the text is the prerogative of the director (and ideally the dramaturg, working in tandem) in conjunction with the individual flavor each actor brings to a role. There are endless authorities on the ‘right’ reading of a piece in both theatre and literature, to name only two related disciplines, and many production companies sink or swim based on an audience’s reception of a particular ‘take’ on a favored classic (for those of you who have seen a particularly bad version of The Merchant of Venice, you know what I mean).

The beauty of theatre, however, is in this very malleability of material. Romeo and Juliet can be a heart thudding angstfest or a commentary on the blindness of teenage love, The Taming of the Shrew a romp of romantic slapstick or a strong feminist commentary on Elizabethan marriage., and Love’s Labours Lost a comedy or tragedy (or both!). Work which allows for new interpretations of the material, divorced of the long tradition of scholarship and often the egos therein, can only usher in new and deeper understandings of the many layered readings of the Bard.

The Edina/JISC service Will’s World  is an example of digital humanists working to do just that. Pulling records from the British Library, Open Library, and JISC MediaHub, this metadata registry is working to provide a searchable aggregate for Shakespearean research. A look at their blog gives you a sense of the group’s time investment and vision as they text mined, metadata enhanced and geotagged their way through the Bard’s corpus.

The plays are marked up in XML using this schema, with content predominantly drawn from Open Source Shakespeare. TEI encodings of the same can be found through the Perseus Shakespeare Collection at Tufts University. Their site is a great example of dual presentation and instruction aims, providing the tech info for  the schema and mappings aggregated in the Solr/Lucene database. And, in the spirit of collaboration, if you have anything you’d like to add to their corpus feel free to contact them.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 11.14.45 PMThe King of Navarre never expected the searchability created by this “little Academe”

Ben Rubin’s Shakespeare Machine, on display now in the lobby of the Public Theatre, NYC, is another ‘in the news’ use of text to reimagine how we access and relate to Shakespeare’s work.

Displayed on 37, nearly four foot long blades (one for each play), the installation is the long labored collaborative work of artists, programers, architects, and professional dramaturgical consultants, including Harvard’s Stephen Greenblatt. “The machine selects and organizes these fragments according to a series of different logical systems, each using a combination of grammatical, contextual, rhythmic, and/or semantic attributes of Shakespeare’s language to generate new text-motion sequences.” But that sounds like a terrific tangle of texts! Never fear: “The artwork’s program ensures that the arrangement of the text at any given instant is unique, and will never be repeated.”

But what really gets my dramuaturgical heart thumping has to be The Shakespeare Quartos Archive. What scholar couldn’t drool a bit over the ability to annotate along side 32 digitizations, and transcriptions, of the five earliest editions of Hamlet? Representing a fantastic collaboration between top institutions (the Bodleian Library, The Folger Shakespeare Library, and Oxford to name a few), the Archive is an amazing example of how bringing the discussion online can truly enhance our understanding of, and access to, materials within the academic community.

And it doesn’t stop there. The materials in the archives are fully searchable and allow for side-by-side comparison, shareable annotations and marking ability, and download capabilities for printing and circulating work done online. Best of all? The Shakespeare Quartos Archive offers a que list customizable by character, searchable across multiple editions of a given play.  Heaven.

Global Lab Interview with Melissa Terras of UCL

Coming from the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities’ blog this week is an interesting interview with department co-director Dr. melissaterrasMelissa Terras.

The original Global Lab Podcast ( produced by the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis) can be found here.  

Asked to explain the origins and current popularity of digital humanities as a field, Terras replied that truly, she couldn’t be certain of the field’s future. Citing that recent changes in the trajectory and reception of DH projects had made current definition difficult, her best definition was: anything to do with culture, art,  and heritage, in conjunction with anything to do with computational methods. Suddenly very fashionable, Terras laughs at the idea of becoming the “bees knees” of the humanities discipline. She did, however, voice concerns about becoming part of a fading interest,  lamenting a wish to avoid falling into the the fads of “that’s so six months ago.”

Terras continues to explain the popularity of DH in the mainstream, citing that the general population is more tech literate, more accepting of the technology in a way which allows for a natural progression to accepting not-so-stodgy humanists using tech within their research. Using XML as an example,  she rightly points out that XML was invented by the humanist text encoding initiative in the ’80s and now underpins all financial interactions on the internet. DH has gone hand in hand with tech from the start.

In speaking of her own work, Dr. Terras explains that her primary interest in the field is simply that DH allows us to do things with art and literature that we couldn’t otherwise do. She finds interdisciplianry work is demanding because it requires broad understanding of methods and best practices from various, often disparate, areas. At present, Terras and her doctoral students are working with digital models at the Science Museum, creating digital records of objects with the use of 3D scanning. Allowing visitors to interact with artefacts on a whole new level, the team has mapped 2.5 billion point clouds to create whole models, true to life, which also will be an archive of the decomissioned 1950’s shipping gallery.

The final question put to Terras raised what many of us wonder: now that you’ve got all this interesting data, what do you do with it? People aren’t really used to inhabiting 3D; we play video games and films have picked up but is this tech really viable for museums to spend on? Terras responded that usability is one of the many focuses of her team.

Having originally worked with ancient documents from the construction of Hadrian’s wall, Terras’ team is now looking into multi spectral imaging, which allows for the viewing of layered, often hidden, aspects of documents. Of interest to preservationists, the UCL group has  acquired 18th c. deaccessioned parchment from the london metropolitan archive in order to create a standard archive on velum damage. Systematically destroying 8 cm squares (with the use of  acid, blood, water etc .), the team hopes to utilize this imaging to understand materials breakdown beyond the surface levels of perception.

In further efforts to express the value of investigating DH research, Terras and her students are also inviting the public to participate through cloud sourced paleography. By bringing to light  traditionally closed off, fragile documents through the creation of digital surrogates, Terras feels that work which embraces public interest “should open up a whole new phase of history.”

The Human Connectome Project

In the news this week is the Human Connectome Project, hailing from Massachusetts General Hospital. Working in partnership with UCLA, Washington University, and the University of Minnesota, the projects consists of a series of graphical renderings which map the architecture of the human brain.  Locating 2D coordinates of fibers, they then  “glue together” local coordinates into larger, 3D  regional coordinates to create a visual representation which looks a little like this:


The project cites, quite rightly, the potential for data utilized in this manner to shed light on the darker labyrinths of neuroscience”:”Informatics is the process of extracting novel and useful information from raw data sets,” states the project site, “nowhere is informatics needed more than in understanding the connectedness of the human brain.” Particularly interesting is the “Relationships Viewer.” Linking back to their data page, the project offers visualizations from the LONI Scientific Visualization Team:


Aside from the obvious benefits to the medical community, what other things might we derive from mapping the superhighways of the brain? In today’s video from the BBC, Director of Connectomics Harvard A.P Van J. Wedeen discusses the potential for getting a close look at the intellectual blueprint of each individual brain. While he’s particularly interested in applying these discoveries to the treatment of mental health disorders, I have to wonder: what ramifications might actualize from mapping quantifiable qualities of, not just “the brain,” but YOUR brain. If the images created from a scientist’s brain differ from those of a writer, perhaps in the future we’ll leave off the SAT testing for potentialities, if not enacted academic work. Though of course time might factor in the creation of these pathways, it would be fascinating to see “this is your brain on Dante” sometime in the future.

Text Analysis Part II- Ancient Language Generator and Voyant

More news from the world of text; this week it’s linguists we’ll  look at.  In her article found in today’s BBC World News, Rebecca Morelle investigates into recent software which can successfully rebuild protolanguages- the ancient root languages from which modern language evolved. The result of work between researchers  at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and University of California, Berkeley,  the team is currently tackling the disparity between the vast nature of linguistic inquiry and the lengthy process of tracking changes across the expanse of human history. “It would take hundreds of lifetimes to pore over all those languages, cross-referencing all the different changes that happened across such an expanse of space – and of time.” reports Dan Klein, co-collaborator and assistant professor at UC Berkeley, “But this is where computers shine.” Picking up on sound changes which leave behind distinctive patterns in word use, the program has achieved at %85 accuracy when put to a number of tests. One such test took a look at a group of Austronesian texts. Pulling from a database of 142,000 words,  the resulting root language constructed by the team is  likely a mother tongue to the region spoken 7, 000 years ago. Though the program can’t explain how or, often importantly, why these linguistic shifts and drifts occurred, such tools make for great indicative flags for further research.

Check out the full text at:

Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

In other nerdy news, last week we took a look at Voyant, a fantastic text analysis tool tool available free on the web. Voyant is part of the project, a collaborative effort from Stefan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell. Intuitive and easy to get the hang of, this tool allows for the input of a variety of text formats (XML, PDF, MS Word etc.), even URLs; the resulting data and visualizations are instantaneous and interesting, to say the least. Beyond providing basic stats regarding a given text corpus (from Millay’s shortest poem to your grandmother’s recipes. All of them.) , Voyant gives us a look at the most commonly utilized words, when and where they occur, with helpful graphing and wordclouds to drive the point home. If that wasn’t neat enough, you can imbed it as a companionate tool along side your own work, or export your findings for shared access (check out the metered use of ‘Jabberwock;’ neat, neat, neat).


Left: wordcloud from the Lais of Marie de France; we knew courtly love was thematic, but now we can see it as well.