Blog #4: Voyant Tools

Voyant tools allows users to work with their own texts or existing texts to perform basic text mining functions. You can discover themes and quickly extract characteristics. It is also a web-based that reads and analyzes texts in a variety of formats including: Plain text, HTML, XML, MS WORD, RTF, and PDF.  Voyant Tools is also a free site which can be used in many ways. It provides visuals like graphs, scatterplots, concept maps for the user to better understand what the information provided is saying.

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The ability to quickly analyze pattern in large bodies can hinder historical analysis. This is because although there are many historians that can access the tool, it’s the type of historian that matters. If a lazy historian was to access the website and have enough information presented before them they would make broad statements about the text. In fact, it is more likely they would have never read the text or dig deeper into the tools provided by Voyant. Also, they may have limited understanding of the actual text as little thinking was present. Not only a lazy historian be a problem but Voyant tool can also limit the perspective of the deeper reading by the historian. For example, if a text was run through Voyant tools, under cirrus, most common words show up. The words that are larger occur more frequently. This gives the historian an insight into the main focus of this text, however, it could also limit the historian to just looking for these topics.  Essentially it could blindfold the historian to look only for specific things, while other aspects of the text could be just as important. While you’d think Voyant Tools provides the basic understanding of the source, the traditional method of reading primary sources is best for understanding the content/intent of the source. This is because voyant provides broad assumptions about the text and provides little information as it does not contain full details as a primary source would have.

Although there are some negative aspects to using Voyant Tools for historians, there are things we cannot access elsewhere. Voyant Tools is very simple to use and efficient for quick research, and it helps to get a basic understanding between the connection between text in order to take it further. Many historians would spend much of their time “sorting” and this digital program helps it make it easier. Therefore, Voyant tool is simply a tool, and without the purposeful effort of the person examining the piece of text, the information Voyant tool gives is broad.

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