Never Have I Ever...

...felt so technologically inept as I do now while trying to navigate all these fun new tools (*cough, Gephi) I never knew existed, so I might as well blast all my shame here for everyone to see. Once upon a time I might have rated myself as technologically proficient (although even that seems like a stretch now), but I have permanently disabused myself of any notions of ever being 'tech-savvy.' I used to laugh when my Dad struggled with basic computer usage because I didn't get how hard it was for him to navigate unfamiliar territory, but I'm sure not laughing now (sorry Dad!). 



To add insult to injury, that blank space ↑ is where the picture of my Gephi Little Review is supposed to appear; apparently I don't even know how to share an image of how much I don't know how to use Gephi. (I uploaded it to Shutterfly & copied the link because I don't know how else to get an image url.)  

I have muddled my way through Gephi as much as possible, but I honestly have no earthly idea what I'm doing and nothing really means much. I can't tell if there's anything missing, or how the nodes really relate to each other through the edges; because of this, I can't offer an educated opinion on the genre and topic connections. I thought the Fruchterman Reingold layout was more aesthetically pleasing than the Yifan Hu layout, but I didn't really glean anything different from one or the other. Despite this, though, I think Gephi is a veritable treasure trove of potential for literary analysis of all kinds; the samples show how well it works with Les Mis and it would be really fun to see Moretti run his Hamlet analysis through Gephi. I get the idea even if I don't actually get it. 

(And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hide in a corner and try to figure out how I got technologically left behind in only my thirties...)

Gephi part II

(Note: I will e-mail pics to professor as they will not download here.)

3) The Fruchterman Rheingold program changes the scheme into an almost hexagon like shape. In this simulation, the inner words are prose and irony, and they are surrounded by all the other words that intersect in this formation in the photograph. It leads to another kind of meaning, because of the nuance when these words are mentioned, also bring eventually these other words into the limelight. This is another layer to explore and quite helpful.  

4) I can see the advantages of working small and medium sized visualizations. Smaller ones would be useful in the case of zeroing in on certain aspects of research, narrowing the focus of a single subject or word, for instance. Medium sized visualizations would work better for larger groups of words or showing how graphs can change over measurements of time. Measuring the data of literature is not a business set in stone, though. I suggest incorporating these tools, but to not wholly rely on them to get all the answers. Updating models will be paramount as technology keeps changing and better tools are developed. Even more importantly, close readings still need to be maintained for what machines miss that only humans can see.  




Gephi answers and pics p

1) Yes, I did notice a difference when playing with the system. Based on the magnification of focus, words would disappear from the word structure. I disagree with the structure based on level of importance of words. ‘World War I’ is the most important and should be in the center because it effects all the words around it more than any other. Even when the word may not be said, or said as much, it is implicated in other terms and phrases because it affects everything. When other words are used like death, memorial, greatness, etc. In the picture. However, all these topics point back to WW I as the instigator. This cannot be gleaned from the graphs, but only close readings of the material. 


2) Based on the running program for Yifan Hu, the shape of the diagram changed drastically. The shape changed into a kind of rhombus that kind of tilted from slightly northeast to southwest, with Memory of Gregory at the top. Mediocracy, world, and Death meet each other more often in the center of the shape, showing how often they intersect with one another. I find this image more in depth and able to read the author’s true intent by re-aligning words in a different structure, making them more ‘visible’, or in other words, more obvious. 


White and Children

Whenever I teach English Composition, I tell students that good writing is really only a matter of building bridges only you can build; making connections no one else can make is what separates an essay that is a rote mechanical exercise of getting words on paper from a creative expression. One day I will write a paper about Joycean neologism in Finnegans Wake and neologism in the music of Young Thug. But that’s for another response. Point is: when I went into Voyant for the first time, I was excited all of the new avenues of bridge building that the digital humanities provide. I was drawn immediately to the contexts and correlations sections at the bottom of the window. The correlation that interested me the most was between the words “children” and white.”

It’s a curious correlation for a number of reasons. In a journal made by and for black Americans, why are white children appearing so often and so close to one another? I can’t help remembering my disgusting priest’s classroom in my wasted Catholic high school. A pro-life poster that read “black children are an endangered species,” was the only permanent fixture on his only bulletin board. We passed it every time we were dismissed. Dear God, a species. Of course, no analogous poster exists for white children. A bias, even an unconscious one, is obvious: white children are, well, children. Black children are not. Consider Tamir Rice, the twelve-year-old boy who was shot for carrying a toy gun. For black children in this country, childhood and play ends prematurely. As soon as black bodies appear within the institutional gaze, childhood gives way to a long adulthood. Now, obviously I’m reaching, but I think that’s the while point. The process of the reading and building the digital humanities not only allows for, but encourages reaching and grasping for ideas that are just beyond the periphery of traditional paper scholarship.

Reading The Crisis with Voyant

Looking at The Crisis through Voyant was a novel way of reading through text that ultimately proved to be quite difficult. In particular, I found it hard  to know the right questions to ask. 

The thing about the sort of close readings I am used to, is that your brain is the machine, indexing and interpreting in ways that we don't think twice about. It’s like walking versus driving. You can do things with a car that you could never do by just walking, but you have to adapt your thinking to the vehicle's mode of transportation. The kind of connections that we make through reading the text have to be manually input by us, yet, without satisfactory knowledge of the material I was feeding Voyant, any question or hypothesis felt like a stab in the dark. 

I wanted to know if the language surrounding race changed over time in The Crisis, and so I plugged in the words "negro" "colored" and "black", and my results were... inconclusive. I had assumed that as time went on, negro and colored would go out of fashion and Black would become far more popular, but that wasn't the case. Even futher, there are no results for "African American", I hadn't realized how recent the term was.

Overall, negro and colored were both used seemingly interchangably, with black being far less used overall. in the last few data points, however, use of colored and negro is down, while black remains the same. I'm not sure what exactly to make of any of it. 

Regardless of how much more removed I felt, it turns out, distanced textual analysis still requires one to get their hands in the mud and grapple. Reading Crisis through Voyant only convinced me of the need of both distanced and closed reading working together in tandem for more complete picture. 

Distant Reading of The Crisis with Voyant Tools

Considering the range of publication years of The Crisis, I used Voyant Tools to see the woman’s suffrage movement fused in the magazine along with the race issues. Since it was not a one-time movement, but a long-term one, I found it super helpful to track the movement within the circle of The Crisis columnists and audience, using Voyant Tools which extracts the results across the whole series of magazine issues. I first typed in “suffrag*” and saw the five peaks—04.5 being the highest, then 10.4, 15.1, 11.1, and 12.3 in sequence—in the graph that deal with the suffrage movement the most. Thinking that it is not as often as I imagined, I became curious about how frequently The Crisis deals with any issues pertinent to woman and typed “woman*.” As it’s shown in the graph below, the top three peaks coincide with the results of “suffrage*,” which reveals that one of the main social issues The Crisis printed in relation to woman is the woman’s suffrage movement, at least before 1920s.


Meanwhile, I became curious about whether the suffrage issue dies down after the 19th Amendment, and so I typed in the words, “disfranchise*,” “enfranchise*.” The result below shows that “disfranchise*” has a highest peak in 21.4, which seems to speak that after the enfranchisement for all people, the magazine is harshly critiquing the issue of disfranchisement still existing out there.


The experience of distant reading with Voyant Tools definitely helped me have a fresh perspective to see the construction of the context around the readings in longer period.

It Hits Close to Home

I've lived in Tulsa for just over a year now, but I'd spent my entire life in Arkansas until the big move. When poring through The Crisis, my first inclination was to see how many times Arkansas and Oklahoma appeared. It's no secret that both Arkansas and Oklahoma have had catastrophic racially motivated massacres. Using Voyant, I was able to pinpoint the related issues quickly, as well as compare their total mention frequencies.






I was somewhat...relieved? that Arkansas and Oklahoma didn't come up as frequently as the Deep South, but it was still gut-wrenching to read the listings of lynchings that occurred. The Elaine Massacre happened in early October 1919, but I was fascinated to read about a lumber plant employing 500 African Americans in Crossett and plans for new manufacturing plants in Hot Springs in the November Issue. A year and a half after the Elaine Massacre the Tulsa "Race Riot" Massacre occurred, and the July 1921 Issue  does feature a chilling report and a photograph of the devastation. This is the ugliest possible history, but it's absolutely crucial that we learn from it to heal the country and the people. 

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.