Voyant Tools Lab Post

The process of visualizing was very interesting because the unique images and ways to look at and analyze a text really enlightened me to different ways that I can view a text. Looking up words in the text and viewing specific trends on them really enhances this concept of "reading a text." Playing with and maneuvering the different tools allowed me to be placed in a different context of "The Crisis" with each new tool that I observed. For example, the visualization tool Mandela was particularly fun to engage in. It was similar to a web of words all connected through different colors. When the cursor was placed over a particular area, the lines connected to specific words would connect to one particular "Crisis" section, but I would like to learn more about how this works specifically because this looks to be a useful tool. While trying to figure out how to make this tool concrete I found where Voyant gives a description of the tool and states, "Mandela is a conceptual visualization that shows the relationship between terms and documents. Each search term (or magnet) pulls documents toward it based on the term's relative frequency in the corpus." I'm interested to unpack this to see how I can implement this tool in the future.

Feminism in The Crisis

As someone who relies on skimming content occasionally when pressed for time, I feel Voyant Tools gives me superhuman abilities to search for content I need. Similar to Google delivering me results based on keywords used in online content (or embedded in the back end of a content management system, Voyant allows me to select specific online content in which to search for keywords. Having seen that The New Freewoman was once an option for perusal in this lab, I was inspired to search The Crisis for a keyword that would overlap with the previously mentioned publication: Women (both the word and the root).

You can see in this graph there are a few key areas where the word (or root word) "women" was mentioned more frequently than others, so I decided to test a hypothesis: Did the two issues with the most significant amount of mentions focus on equal rights for women? I pulled up another Voyant window and searched only for “rights” to get the results below.

That graph also peaks on the two issues that most frequently use the word (or root word) “women,” so I decided to check those issues out. Beginning in order of date, I went to Volume 4, Issue 5 of The Crisis which was published in September 1912, almost eight years before the 19th amendment was ratified.

Based on the title, "Women's Sufferage Number" I can see why this issue would mention “women” and “rights” more often than other issues, which led me to assume that the following issue must also deal with women’s suffrage. So, to investigate, I pulled up Volume 10, Issue 4 of The Crisis which was published in August 1915, still five years before the adoption of the 19th amendment.

Not a shocking result that the title of this issue is "Votes for Women." As you can see by the cover, this issue also focuses heavily on women’s suffrage. Although neither of them fall on the ratification of the 19th amendment, these issues still hold key perspectives on the women’s suffrage movement, and I feel there is an excellent opportunity to use Voyant in the future to explore this topic, and endless others, in depth.

Tracking Controversy

The process of visualizing The Crisis allowed for a more distant reading of the text, enabling me to follow trends/issues rather than reading piecemeal updates. In an attempt to view the effects of a singular event, I've inserted an image below (as I was foiled in an attempt to embed a view via HTML) of the graphed instances where the phrase "Birth of a Nation" appears in The Crisis. I was interested in following the discussion of the release and reception of the controversial white supremacist film, which was protested by the NAACP. The first ocurrence of the film title in The Crisis is in the context of a May 1915 article titled "An Instance of the Way the NAACP Works." 

The graph evidences the surge (and later resurgence) of evaluation and protests of the film. The initial NAACP efforts to censor the film for its racist content were dispelled by the approval of the Board of Censorship. I searched The Crisis for "Board of Censorship," and, surprisingly, the relative frequency graph looked like a singular spike in usage, which implies that the release of "Birth of a Nation" was, at least in The Crisis, the most inflammatory episode of controversy with the Board of Censorship. (The major spike in frequency of "Board of Censorship" comes from the same issue of the first mention of "Birth of a Nation.") This mainly raises more questions for me. What was the relationship between the NAACP and the Board of Censorship? Was Birth of a Nation a singular event, the epicenter of film censorship and racial conflict, or was it just the only one (or the most chronologically significant one) to be covered in depth by The Crisis? (Where is Dr. Jackson when you need him?) The structural evaluation afforded by Voyant is a helpful way to reveal these initial relationships to be explored by later close reading.


Voyant Tools and Crisis Magazine

As the Crisis was a magazine written for African Americans and their experiences in the early 20th century, I focused my graph searches on their concerns over time. Looking at the word war, it is one of the most frequently used ones in the series. Black soldiers did their best to volunteer despite racism in the the first world war.

Of note, I found no mention for racist or racisim, but I did find words for discrimination and prejudice. However, the graph shows that these mentions are lowered over time. I do not belive it is because of ending racism, because I found many instances of the word lynching below.

I believe, based on the data, that African Americans became more concerned with other major issues over time, especially past world war I. If you look at the graph below, mentions of money, homes, and education, and college started taking over talking point distrubution after the war.

The highest points at the end are money and home, which seems to become a major factor when talking about the issues that effected them the most. Economic factors became a bigger concern over time as jobs and education took the forefront of their needs.

On a side note, the word negro appears to decline over time, while the word black takes the place of favor of the the writers. I do not know what this switch is to be attributed to, as the data is insufficient to hazard a guess at the time I am writing this. I can say it is a fact that the terminology for African Americans has changed many times over the centuries, including, Negro, Colored, Black, and Afro American. Based on that, I would observe African Americans want to shape their own cultural identity outside of how others view them, on their own terms. This magazine was one way for them to have the freedom to take charge of their own destinies and strive toward a better future despite the inequalities they endured.


Poking around on the Voyant page for the Crisis was kind of fun! I initially was having some bug trouble with the drill-down feature—I was trying to see the distribution of terms within a document but I don’t think the website would let me. Regardless, I found that “school” and “high” were both markedly popular words in volume 22, no. 3, which was published in 1917, although I don’t know the significance of that. It was also interesting to make connections that I could have already put together but for my lack of historical knowledge. For example, “women” was used most in volume 10, no. 4, which I see was published in 1915, the year of a notable women’s suffrage march.
I was also interested in and amused by Veliza. I don’t know if I gained anything about the actual text of the Crisis from this tool, but it was certainly entertaining, and at the least I gained some decontextualized familiarity with the various issues from the fragments spit out when I selected the “from text” response option. Thinking of temporary structures within a historical flow, from Moretti: I remember being in New York and being surprised to see ads on the subway about an app that would connect you with a therapist to text back and forth with. This format of a text conversation between therapist and “patient” feels like an example of Voyant’s playing around with a temporary structure (texting with a therapist, a structure of the current moment) within the historical flow of data visualization. (This is not even to get into the way that psychotherapy has evolved over the years into a dynamic that works through texting.)

Bornstein and the Experience of Reading "Prufrock"

It was supposed to be posted a week before, but it took me some more time to finish it after I started drafting last week. 

Bornstein’s article enlightened me about how the work of literary art can be interpreted better and more affluently by considering the whole context in which the text is placed. In “How to read a page: modernism and material textuality,” he breaks down the main ideas of recent editorial theory for page reading into several aspects: “awareness of its constructedness and of multiple alternatives” (6) and the recognition of “bibliographic code” along with “its linguistic code” (6). He then demonstrates through his reading of four sonnets by John Keats, Emma Lazarus, W.B.Yeats, and Gwendolyn Brooks how interpretations and readings of the same linguistic codes are changed by the different bibliographic codes. He shows that studying the multiple sites of appearance for the literary work enables the reader to see what’s been emphasized/erased from the work in each site and to read historical, political, or aesthetical context of the work.


His demonstration of reading sonnets reminded me of my experience of reading “Prufrock” last week. I first read it in The Norton Anthology and then the Catholic Anthology “Prufrock” and the comic version of it. When I read the poem from The Norton Anthology, it was like the poem was standing alone even though there were several other pieces that follow by Eliot because I didn’t read the introductory note for T. S. Eliot that comes beforehand as well as other works that come afterwards. So, my experience of reading “Prufrock” from the Anthology was to pay close attention to its aesthetics and message, connecting it to the other works by Eliot that I have read before. However, when I read it from the Catholic Anthology, it created a whole new story, totally different from what I got from The Norton Anthology. Yeats’s “The Scholars,” at the beginning of the book, opens a way to Eliot’s poems, and his poem sarcastically emphasizes the disparity between the poet and the scholars’ understanding of a love poem, which kind of sets a very different tone for reading Eliot’s poems from what Norton Anthology creates. And the collection of Eliot’s poems interacts with each other as if they were written as a set that provides both man and woman’s view respectively in a love relationship. Other poems by other poets in the Catholic Anthology after Eliot also add the similar tone to each other, which helps the readers to see more of an atmosphere shared by the contemporary writers than just the aesthetics of one poem. In the comic version, on the other hand, the background scenes I only vaguely imagined, such as the street scenes, personified “yellow fog” and “yellow smoke,” and the tea cups, caught my eyes and was lifted to the extent that has an equal importance as other things in the poem. As Bornstein demonstrates that “[t]racing the multiple sites of the poem reveals alternate material components of meaning” (31), reading “Prufrock” from different sites proves the possibility of varied interpretation of the poem depending on which site one encounters it.

Direct visualization

I enjoyed Manovich’s essay on visualization. I had previously thought of information visualization/infovis in the way that computer scientists tend to define it, as interactive visual interfaces on the computer. It was interesting to consider a traffic light as an example of infovis (and one that privileges the dimension of color). I was also interested in the concept of visualization without reduction, or direct visualization. I love the idea of the tag cloud that came out of Flickr circa 2005 being a sort of ideal type of visualization in which every part of the data (the text being searched) is fully shown, with the size of a word in relationship to its usage frequency. I also watched some of Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen's Listening Post and was so fascinated (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD36IajCz6A). The visualization/voiceover is fragmented, but it is direct, and in addition to being an innovative example of real-time infovis, it captures the essence of that golden early-2000s era of AIM messaging (“I’m 18M,” “I am still used to Windows,” “I am stuck in Oklahoma”) and the weird prophetic nature of half-formed messages (“I am not really”). A favorite infovis of mine is Festify, which takes your Spotify listening data and formats your most-listened-to artists (in the past month, in the past six months, or of all time) into a festival lineup. Although it's a reductive visualization, at least in my case it makes for a kind of fun subversion of music-industry hierarchies as DIY emo bands appear next to Taylor Swift and Coldplay: https://salty-beach-42139.herokuapp.com.

Who is Reading my Immortal Art?

Every modernist has this moment of profound grief when they discover that the novels, poems, and plays they find sacred, the ones that warranted a century of study and will demand more time still, are only a fraction of what people during the early twentieth century actually read. And we all kind of possess the same hard-wired snobbery: pop is stupid, but it will always be with us—as Jesus said of the poor—and we must develop some kind of defense in our gut to make sure we don’t end up listening to BTS on shuffle. Of course, the importance of a democratizing, global pop group like BTS can’t possibly be understated. It appears pop is the only global language we can really understand. And that’s kind of beautiful. Still, the snobbery remains, and young modernists like myself—who probably have a lot in common with the pop-is-stupid-coffee-shop-kids—will continue to work, driven by the absolute certainly that the art we study was the most real, the most visceral of the time period.

What I’m trying to say is this: Moretti’s article points out a kind of stunning flaw in how we measure the consumption of literature as either entertainment or professional practice today. We can measure who is writing, where they are publishing, what percentage of poems/stories are accepted by which popular magazines, but no one cares to wonder who the fuck is reading any of our real, visceral art. What is true of 1808 is true of today: “audiences turn resolutely—and irreversibly—to the current season” (Moretti 8). But maybe our current seasons is more difficult—or even impossible—to chart. As mass media gets, well, massier, so does its atomization. The consumption of art becomes at once monolithic and totally infinite as audio technology and amateur publishing become more and more accessible. For every BTS, there are thousands of bedroom pop musicians who play for an audience of one. For every Rupi Kaur, there are thousands of poets shilling their poems on Tumblr. Listen. I publish my poems in great, renowned magazines who have published Pulitzer laureates, and the most I talk about those poems is on Tinder. Who besides my matches on Tinder is opening these literary magazines and consuming this shit?

Manovich and Moretti on Visualization

Should I be surprised, at this point, at the diversity of approaches to any element of digital or visual humanities? This week's readings from Manovich and Moretti model the expansive ideology of visual representations of literary or humanities content, with Manovich focusing on the technology and structure of visualization (culminating in a vision of "visualization without reduction" (12)) while Moretti pursues the relationship between visual representations of inherently abstract or theoretical elements. I am temperamentally attracted to Moretti's idealistic introduction, which poses visualization as an agent of the tension between the abstract and the concrete, of past and future:

"Finally, these three models are indeed... abstract. But their consequences are on the other hand extremely concrete: graphs, maps, and trees place the literary field literally in front of our eyes-- and show us how little we still know about it. It is a double lesson, of humility and euphoria at the same time: humility for what literary history has accomplished so far (not enough), and euphoria for what still remains to be done (a lot). Here, the methodology of the book reveals its pragmatic ambition: for me, abstraction is not an end in itself, but a way to widen the domain of the literary historian, and enrich its internal problematic" (2).

Manovich seems to value information visualization as an end in itself, a new stop on the ever-expanding subway map of literary studies, if you will. His project "Mapping Time" is a constructed artifact of Time magazine covers from 1923 to 2009, and he notes that this visual arrangement reveals trends of cover saturation and contrast that can be placed and analysed within a historical context. He praises the high-resolution computing power that allows the preservation of detail and color (for "visualization without reduction"). However, while preserving all aspects of "visualization," Manovich's project is still a condensation, a compressed vision of the information it holds; hence, its analysis produces generalizations and trends rather than comprehensive structure. I admire his archival impulse. But I appreciate Moretti's exploration of visual mapping as a circular project of referentiality, rather than a linear expansion. Moretti's humble summary of data visualization is a representative abbreviation of complexity: "Granted, things are not always so neat. But when they are, it's interesting" (42).

Visualization and Manovich

Visualization for humans has been around for at least thousands of years, since the time cave paintings were created by men, women, and children. So it is not a new process at all. The challenge now, is to marry our version of it to the computer in a kind of wedded bliss.This was a rocky road at first, as computers were inadquete to hold all but the most simple forms of data. But the techinques we have come up with, including coding and libraries of multimedia, have develped the models and modes of understanding to new heights.

Manovich contends that another great technique is to save the data in which the order it was created, which shows the change in graphs over time. He calls it a "cultural time series". I conjecture that what he is trying to say is that knowing at what points of time data is created is as important as the data itself. By chronicalling the information and visualizing the history in a condensed format of images, it is possible to come up with data that might have otherwise been hidden and come up with different conclusions. The patterns that show themselves evident have 'media elements', which are normally seperated by time. Thus such mapping is useful for showing variation in the data over time. These are ways visualization can help people come up with solutions that need variables in an ever changing world.



Bornstein — "How to Read a Page"

I enjoyed the Bornstein reading and his analysis of four different sonnets and their textual meaning based on the surrounding material and how certain editions either historicize or de-historicize the work (p.3). In particular, Bornstein's analysis of Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" and it's evolved meaning through both the poet's intentions and our own interpretation of the work I found to be particularly insightful. 

As Bornstein quotes earlier from Walter Benjamin, the reproductive form of a work cannot account for "its presence in time and space." This idea is complicated when the form of "The New Colossus" shifts from written to spoken to embodying a space on a physical plaque to the textbook of The Norton Anthology. The work's presence in one time and one space mean a different thing. In the textbook, the work is academic, in person, I'd imagine the work functions as emotional. The poem as the auctioned word is an artifact for few and the plaque a piece of architecture for the masses. And yet, the text itself does not change. 

Through looking at what analysis can be gained from reading the poem in different context's Bornstein points out how fallible our words are. Devoid of context, text can be separated from meaning, and still retain function. Our textual environment shapes the work, too. 

When I was about twelve, my family visited Pikes Peak, which famously inspired the song "America the Beautiful." The "purple mountain majesties" of the song is taken from the view from Pikes Peak. At the top of the peak, there's a plaque with the words to the song, and when you get there, you see it exactly as Katherine Lee Bates saw it, there's no ambiguity. The prose isn't driven by some desire to dress up the beauty of the landscape, but to explain it as was seen. While the song is intended to provide some general sense of the sprawling American landscape, it does so in the specifics. Bornstein's discussion of "The New Colossus" reminded me of how my interpretation of "America the Beautiful" shifted when I encountered the work outside of a textbook (or football field!). It now hinges on a shared experience of the natural American landscape and then the application of words. 

Fun Little Tidbits

While looking over the three journals, I've been intrigued by the advertisements and short commentaries. 


black and white photograph of an advertisement about NYC real estate Imagine investing in real estate in New York City in 1918. It had to have been phenomenally difficult, even back then, and espcially for African Americans, who were in the throes of Jim Crow America. But it's fun to think about the lucky few who might have been able to make it happen. Imagine if they kept their property in the family for generations...roughly 4-5 or so by now. Teleologically speaking, we can see the value in this ad. Everyone back then knew that NYC real estate would grow in value, but I don't think anyone had any idea how much NYC real estate would grow. It also makes me wonder where we should be investing here and now and making plans to keep those investments in the family...how much will things grow in the next 102 years? What advantages will we give our descendents?

Color photograph of a page from The Egoist magazine


I hadn't even started reading The Little Review and this opening page caught my eye. This isn't written for tired and depressed people, so I'm clearly out. This semester has me tired, depressed, and stressed, but still in awe of the amazing things I'm getting to do right now. I don't represent their 'fit' audience, but somehow I'm here reading it anyway, and I'm plenty diverted and amused to boot.





This little gem also comes from The Little Review. As an avid Duolingo user and wannabe linguist, this was fun for me to contemplate. I like how the advertisers listed cities with branches, but not specifically the languages they offered. At first I thought it was a correspondence course and I wondered how they could promise the ability to "UNDERSTAND and to SPEAK the foreign languages, till I realized the students traveled to all those 'exotic' cities to attend in person classes. That also solves what I had thought was an interesting dilemma of "SUPERIOR NATIVE TEACHERS" as I assumed the superior natives were somehow coming to the US, and I wondered about the status of immigrants and/or refugees in 1918. Further confirmation that I am not fit to study The Egoist and The Little Review, but the effort continues.

I will add that anyone who reads these short ramblings 102 years from now (plus those in the present) is more than welcome to chuckle or roll their eyes and keep the conversation with the future going for 102 years from then. 





Bornstein: Reading a Page

Bornstein gives a very detailed account of what it means to "read a page" through different examples throughout his piece. I thought it interesting to place myself in this mindset while reading through the June 1918 issue of The Crisis. What an interesting way to delve into a text that allows one to look beyond the "linguistic code" as Bornstein puts it, and instead focus on the "bibliographic codes" as well in order to develop a broader range of meaning that helps with the interpretation of the text.

Bornstein mentions that in order to read a page effectively, it is important to "recognize that the literary text consists not only of words, but also of the semantic features of its material instantiations." With this in mind, I chose The Crisis as my guinnea pig for this unique approach that I had not used prior to reading Bornstein's work. Rather than merely focusing on the words I dove into the text to look for "clues" that would bring the text alive for me. Bornstein suggests that looking at the "cover design, page layout, or spacing...other contents of the book or periodical in which the work appears, as well as prefaces, notes, or dedications that affect the reception and interpretation of the work," these "bibliographic codes," provide an "aura" that a reader can not establish when simply looking at the "linguistic code."

Even though my first thought was to jump straight to the text, I spent my energy and focus on breaking down the different elements of the magazine edition, starting with the cover design and art to see what added meaning I could uncover. I took note of the lone soldier placed on the cover and read on to see that the cover design was influenced by a poster painted by another individual. This prompted me to look and research further into this dynamic, contributing to my sense of the historrical presence and aura.

I next looked at the page layout and when bold print came up in the text I zeroed in on the purpose behind it. Large, blue, bold text that stated "The Moorefield Storey drive for 50,000 members" placed me into context of the significance of this magazine, a venture that aims to gather a community that fights for justice. "DO IT NOW" allows for a sense of urgency, showing that this magazine means much more than the words on a page but a catalyst for change in this historical time period.

Finally, I would like to touch on the other contents of the magazine that contributes to this "aura" presented in the text. The Ads that are placed periodically throughout the magazine lend a much needed sense of honor and dignity to the overall impression of the magazine. The ads give readers a much more in depth perception of the meaning and emphasis of this work. "Prideful", "dignified", and "prominent" are terms that come to mind as the magazine becomes filled with these positive trinkets placed throughout that cast African Americans out of the lens of oppressed and into one of strength.

Although I could say more, this journey of "reading a page" was enlightening for me. It helped broaden my perspective in analyzing a text through multiple modes and opened my eyes to a different perspesctive of thought about this particular text.

Bornstein and the Reading of Literature

When I was in high school, we read Macbeth By William Shakespeare. It was mentioned that there was a debate between scholars that possibility someone else wrote and added in the witches and the infamous Double double boil and trouble scene to the play years later make it more sensational. 

 ALL.  Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
 WITCH.  Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

This is an example of Bornstein’s thesis that you have to take all versions of the text into account, even if they may be forged or altered. When I think about these scenes from the play it gives me a different view and experience than if they had been excluded. On one hand, you want to have the purest possible text of what Shakespeare wrote, without any interference from some fame seeker trying to sensationalize the audience's experience. But if you don’t add these lines, you may be censoring Shakespeare himself just because the lines are a somewhat different in structure from the rest of the play. It will take out a huge amount of foreshadowing and the idea of a mythical evil taking over Macbeth’s soul along with his decisions as a part of the story. This can be seen as a loss for the text as a whole.
Whatever the truth may be about the author of these lines, scholars have decided to leave in the scenes of the witches that we enjoy today in the productions of Macbeth. The people that hold the historical records will be the ones to decide how literature is saved and how it will be viewed or censored from the public.

Love Song

I enjoyed reading the anthology/screen version of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” for all the sentimental reasons that are normally associated with print. I loved looking at the old paper of the pages, and even when turning the page via scrolling I understood McGann’s idea of a new page as an opening. Also, in terms of medium and message being intertwined, I felt that the romantic nature of reading this poem in the anthology was very much dependent on the content of the poem, on its narrator’s wanderings through “half-deserted streets” and its generally gorgeous expression of ennui. 

I have to say that as I was reading this poem I immediately thought of the National—one of my favorite bands and absolute pros at channeling urban, intellectual disillusion through gloomy, rhythmic indie rock—and their album Boxer in particular. The similarities felt so striking that I searched to see if anyone had already made the connection and found a blog post on the LA Review of Books website that beat me to the punch (for those interested, https://blog.lareviewofbooks.org/essays/love-song-matthew-d-berninger/). If I’m looking at the timeline correctly, Eliot was living in Paris at the time of writing this poem, and that sort of spell of being a Midwesterner in some mystifying metropolis is common throughout the two works. The opening lines of “Prufrock,” setting up a night out marked by a strange kind of solemnity, are in lockstep with being “half-awake in a fake empire”; “Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’ / Let us go and make our visit” and the refrain of “there will be time” echoes the sweet, tired sentiment of “Turn the light out, say goodnight, no thinking for a little while / let’s not try to figure out everything at once.” The lines “My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin … Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” underscore the same kind of well-to-do self-consciousness as “Underline everything, I’m a professional in my beloved white shirt,” and “I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker” is just every National kicker ever. 

McGann’s points that literature is figurative and always doing many things simultaneously and that computers can’t make the kinds of associational leaps that humans can were what I had in mind as I read. It was kind of comforting that the screen version we were provided consisted of scans of pages with their original type rather than, say, some adaptation on a webpage. The reading experience definitely took me back to listening to Boxer in the big, stately rooms of Butler Library on a summer evening in New York City.