I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that our class would be using the Voyant web app. I have used the web app last year in IASC 2P02 Solving Problems Through Interactive Arts and Science, and during my time using the tool I found it interesting to experiment with and discover interesting qualitative data. What I really liked about the Voyant was how I could use a variety of its tools to visualize relationships between different words and phrases within a select text. These visualizations make digesting the analysed data much easier.
Voyant Analysis of Beowulf in Old English
When it comes to using Voyant and similar tools to analyse texts in large bodies for Historical research, I believe they do more help than harm. Sure, there are a variety of pitfalls that come with an analysis tool like Voyant. Some of the analysis data discovered through Voyant could be taken out of context, which may result in a user drawing false conclusions. With that said, this can be avoided simply by being conscious of what you discover from the tool and not to rely on the tool heavily. Furthermore, I found while using Voyant that there is often the problem of having some words like “the” or surnames pollute the most numerous words in a text. Unfortunate there is no way to filter out these words. What would be even more ideal would be if one could filter through types of words, this could give greatly help a user find data which could demonstrate an author’s writing style. What Voyant can be strong at is studying language of the past. Voyant can analyse text of a vast number of languages if the letters of a language are digitized. Therefore, Voyant can examine dead languages and can give researchers greater insight on how that language was spoken and written. In addition, Voyant gives historians the ability to draw information to massive documents in a fraction of the time. Where once historians were required to read a 2000-page text page by page, Voyant provides a new way to consume historical texts.
Although its not perfect, Voyant is a tool that demonstrates how important the digital history is and the potential future text analysis tools have.