Voyeur Tools

A Voyant Perspective of The Crisis and The Egoist

I compared two magazines, The Crisis and The Egoist. The Crisis is always an interesting magazine to look at because of its vast amount of magazine issues and its distinction as an NAACP house magazine that acted as a voice for the black community of America in the racially turbulent times of the 20th century. I wanted to compare it to The Egoist because though The Egoist put a focus on the promotion of modernist literature, according to MJP, it also continued in the vein of The Freewomen by addressing social and philosophical issues. I thought that perhaps The Egoist would discuss issues surrounding race in its social or political discussions. 

I decided to search these magazines for race-related words such as "colored" "negro" and "nigger." Not surprisingly, "colored" and "negro" are among the most frequently used words in The Crisis. "Colored"  and "negro" are almost always among the top five most distinctive words in each issue of The Crisis.

My word trend search of "Nigger" showed me that it is rarely used more than once per issue by The Crisis and from looking at its usage in context; I was able to determine it was never reflected as as an appropriate title for black people. 

The results from my search for race-related words in The Egoist were surprising. Though the magazine's most frequently used words are "life" and "man," hardly any mention is made of the "colored" man or the lives of a negro or negroes. "Colored" was not once used in reference to a person or people, and "negro" was used less than 15 times in the entire corpus and never used more than twice in an issue. "Nigger" was used twice in the entire corpus and it was difficult to tell from the context whether the writer using it was regarding it as an appropriate title for a black person or not. 

I wanted to look at the word usage of these words in the corpus containing all nine magazines, but I couldn't get the download to work.  I assume however that the majority of the usage of these words would be found in The Crisis.  

Love, Poetry, and Feminism

At first, I planned on looking up the frequency of "love" in Poetry and BLAST, but I couldn't get BLAST to work. My second plan, then, was to look up love in Poetry and The Freewoman. I thought it would be interesting to see how love was discussed in these two magazines with two very different agendas. Originally, I had expected Poetry to mention love quite a bit. This is maybe a little stereotypical of poetry, but I certainly figured that it love would make an appearence frequently in the various selections of poetry. In contrast, I figrued that The Freewoman wouldn't discuss love too often during its discussion of more politically relevant topics.

I was quite surprised by what I found in both magazines. The frequency with which love appeared in the two magazines was quite similar. In Poetry, love really wasn't discussed as much as I was expecting. There was really only one magazine that had a very high useage of the word. Similarly, in The Freewoman, love was discussed an average amount across all the issues, but there was one issue in particular where love was discussed a lot more. What is really interesting is that the frequencies were very similar. In Poetry, the highest frequency was 40/10,000. In The Freewoman, the frequency was 32/10,000. This was much more similar than I would have guessed.

What this showed me is that universal themes really are universal. I know that if I had looked at specific topics between the two magazines, I would have had different results. For instance, any of the topics in The Freewoman's political agenda would much likely not appear too often in Poetry. However, it seems that a universal topic doesn't escape the clutches of a political magazine, but it also doesn't steal the show in a more artistic realm.

Using Voyant

Using Voyeur Tools to read The Little Review was an interesting experience. As others have commented, the word trend search and graph was a fun tool, but as far as helping one read The Little Review it is only a jumping off point. It provides interesting data sets, but without going back to the text of the magazine(s) one may easily get a false sense of the key terms and key trends in the magazine. I liked that one of the provided Voyant tools allows one to view a given word in context. I used the word in context tool to look at the most frequently used key word "life." Looking through the given text of the first magazine, I was able to see that "life" and specifically life as seen through art,literature, poetry, and music truly was a key theme in the magazine, particularly the first issue. Of course this was the intent of the editors of the magazine.
 
in playing around Voyant more, one of my favorite aspects of Voyant became the Corpus Reader and the ability to hover over a word and see its usage frequency and see it highlighted throughout the rest of the text. I realized that Voyant is undoubtedly a helpful tool for close examining of a text, but that it requires the reader or researcher to be an active participant and manipulator of the tools. I came to realize that using a combination of the tools was the best means of gaining insight into The Little Review and patterns within the magazine.

Visualization Tools: Voyant

Using Voyant felt like using a more specific Google Ngrams. That's not a bad thing--or a good thing, at that, necessarily. It all depends on what one is trying to use the tool for. I enjoyed comparing word fequences in The Little Review, but I didn't feel as though I was gleaning much (if any) meaningful information, simply because I'm well aware of all the ways word frequency data can be skewed.

One thing I really liked about Voyant was the ease with which I could access the original text and the spots in which the words I searched for showed up. That helped to provide context that I am not accustomed to seeing with Ngrams. But in terms of analytical tools, I still prefer Gephi. But maybe that's still because of how impressed I was with Gephi's programming and manner of information visualization. (Our previous Manovich reading was rather enlightening on the matter of why Gephi might more naturally appeal to me than Voyant.)

Voyeur Tools

Ì enjoyed Voyeur Tools but I found some things wanting in it. By far, my favorite feature was the word cloud; picking out information with it was straightforward and reminded me of Moretti's graphs in the distant reading piece. While the word trends tool was fun to play around with, I found myself increasingly frustrated with it. Instead of seeing the whole corpus represented and choosing a focus, searching the word trends had me wracking my brain to come up with combinations that would be fruitful or interesting. I did find an interesting spike in the use of the word "woman" in The Little Review's 11th issue (1915-02). When I went through the issue in the archive, I found a script with a character simply named "The Woman;" her name definitely contributed to the spike in iterations.

Voyeur Tools has already done a lot of the data reduction for the user, seemingly to the point of encouraging the user to do more additive functions ("oh, let's put 'violin' in contrast with 'music' and see how the relative graphs change"). It seems to me that it's far easier to miss out on interesting or important correlations with selective or additive functions such as this. Trying to guess at things (especially in using the various search bars) made reading The Little Review harder for me.

 

Voyeur Tools

I have to say, I think the Voyeur Tools is my favorite program that we have looked at in class thus far. I really like the look of the visual representations, and I really appreciate that there are multiple visual representation options. My favorite part, however, is that the program offers the actual statistical data that the visual represents. Particularly in the word trends widget, I like that the frequency of the word is actually shown, and the issue itself is accessible.

For example, I looked up the words art and new. In word trends, I found that art is talked about much more frequently than things being new. This struck me because my last interaction with art was the Prologue to Dorian Grey, which talks about the importance of making things new via art. I understood this idea to be central to the modernist movement. In the word trends, however, I found that the issue with the most uses of the word art is the issue with the fewest uses of the word new. Just from this data I began to think that their definition or explanation of art would be quite different than Oscar Wilde's, and after I looked at the issue for myself, I found that I was right: their definition of art was quite different. I thought that it was fascinating that I was able to see this in nothing more than squiggly lines of a page!