What is Voyant tools??
The simple answer is that a free online text analysis software. It’s a tool which greatly facilitates analysis of large text and offer a way to represent the data visually through a plethora of options to see how words are connected, where they are encountered and even the context of each occurrence.
Its only after using it and analyzing some large texts with it you realize its true potential, there are many ways to represent the same information the varying degree accuracy that it can be slightly overwhelming at first. You can start from something quite simple such as the most recurring words in the text but then very simply add an extra layer of complexity to your analysis by obtaining the most common terms collating with these and where in the text does it occur (and reoccur). Voyant then offers multiple ways to visualize and present these relations which can be further tweaked and personalized to personal preference or needs and can be easily exported for use in documents.
What are its limitations
Firstly, we must look at what Voyant tools really is, an algorithm. All of it is just code, and thus it doesn’t have an actual understanding of language. To its credit though it does very well to automatically remove some words such as “the” or “and” from its analysis of texts as these would most certainly be the most common otherwise. It does however treat words such as “America” and “American” as completely independent and separate words when you could argue that they should be treated as one and the same. In similar spirit the term “United Nations” should be treated the same as the term “UN” instead of two separate words for example. its there that lies one of the key weakness for Voyant, it doesn’t necessarily give context and its accuracy is by the simple comparisons that it can make.
Why is this useful and where / how do we use it?
Well if truth be told, Voyant doesn’t do anything new, you could (technically) do everything Voyant does by hand though it would extremely tedious and unpleasant. What Voyant gives us (as historians and analyst of texts) is tremendous Quality of life improvement in our disciplines. It does in seconds work that by hand would take hours if not days of tedious work and perhaps more importantly, it provides us with a variety way to visualize and present our findings. This is arguably the most crucial point as no matter how great your work or research is if you cannot present it in a meaningful way for your audience to understand you have not yourself or your work justice.
Another effective use of Voyant would be to use for finding a place to start to analyze the text as for some inexperienced historians (such as myself) or even extremely large body of text (religious or law) as starting the task can be difficult at times. This could also be useful when searching for a specific topics within a large such as for example Josef’s role in bible.
story maps used for reference:
“The Two Koreas” is a story map which places a context to recent political insults between the North Korea and the rest of the world. It explains not only how the conflict was started but also how it developed geographically and politically until today.
In the first section, the effective use of the geographical map data makes it easy to compare who had the upper hand in the conflict and who controlled key cities at each stage of the conflict. In addition to geographical maps there is also a political timeline to help you understand how each side has evolved in terms of political thinking which really does help to answer the question “How did we get here”. The story map then goes into further statistical details to paint a clear difference between the two countries today in terms of life styles, culture and economic growth before going into more depth about potential future conflicts.
The very simple use of imagery to show the range of artillery fire and South-Korea’s population is very powerful and trivial to understand. This story map explains the tense and complex situation between the two countries in a simpler and summarized better than most news articles and really carries the message to the readers all the while remaining factually accurate. It may not be as factually accurate as full research paper or essay but is considerably more digestible for the average person.
While this story map was very well constructed and with an excellent delivery there was a minor drawback, the entire story map delivered in a very linear fashion. This leaves little room for other historians or political scientists to expand on some of the topics were they in some cases could of. There are of course many other formats for story maps but perhaps this was the best for a chronological explanation of geographical events.
This brings us to a general limitations of story maps, while they are great for explaining research and explaining interpretations of history visually, there are many formats and variations of story maps and while certain topics may fit many formats. Some on the other hand will not. An example of this would the bombings of London during the second world war. You cannot expect to use a simple single screen/slide type of presentation as the it would get far too cluttered and the user would get overwhelmed. It is required to think of your story map as a digital interface through which a reader (user) will consume your content and as such is required to obey some basic design principles when organising content.
Lastly, not everything can be expressed with story maps for the simple reason that story maps require data, the data can statistics, maps, charts, graphs… this can be rather difficult for some topics such as religion and mythology.
The Darwin correspondence project is a very useful tool for understanding the life’s work of Charles Darwin from middle school level to graduate studies and research. It offers a wide range of original sources (or scans thereof) about his communications up to 1872. The archive not only provides a lot of information but makes it simple to browse and access whether it be by author, keyword, topic or keyword. Each correspondence can be filtered further by adding more details such as address and document type making looking for a specific source quite simple. The drawback of this project however is that it is funded and controlled by Cambridge University, a private organisation and while I personally believe that the sources are most likely to be legitimate it does mean they have the control over the story will be explored and in which light the readers will see the source(s).
Personally, I would consider Ancestry.ca to be closer to a genetic database than an archive. They ultimately are in a constant process of enlarging their records by collecting and storing DNA. This is then comparing your own DNA and in turn then used to search for any connections to you, the paying client. By determining your ethnicity and any relations you might have across the globe. This could be of great interest for people who are interested in their own personal history and ethnicity but because this remains a new project I feel its efficacy has yet to come into full effect… If like me, you have played any of the old Assassin’s creed games this project might make rise an eyebrow. Its not always a great idea to hand confidential information which can easily identify you for private companies to then use as part of their network may in time be a cause for concern especially in this time of security breaches and data breaches.
The Medici Archive was originally to be a mass digitization and online storage of some 6429 volumes of letters and sources from 1537 to 1743 of Tuscany and Europe but turned out to be much more than that. Today the online archive is one of the largest of its kind and has helped many researchers of various fields by providing sources and documentation to help further them into their field. It has also grown into an online institution as it provides online courses with new and “unpublished” materials. One of the few drawbacks of this archive is that it can get a bit overwhelming with the sheer number of sources unless you are looking for about specific topic. I have also found the site the be slow at times (at least during my use) and takes time to load every page.
Overall, I believe that online digital archives are a great tool for preservation and accessibility to sources and brings great benefits when sharing knowledge online overcoming distances and time zones and greatly reducing the costs of research. While there will be a slight loss of “human touch” on future research papers and that these archives will rarely be able to have all the information researchers and students need for their papers they can be of great use as a starting point and pointers to relating topics.
The amount of information at our fingertips is as close to infinite as it has ever been before
My name is Keiran and I am of French origin (born in France from a French family) but I have moved around a lot due to my parent’s job, namely various parts of Africa then the United Kingdom. my major is computer science and thus needless to say that this course does have a lot personal interest for me. I have a great interest in gaming (specifically counter-strike) and esports. At this moment in time I’m not even sure I know which continent I wish to work and/or live in and just wish to keep as many doors open when my time comes at an end at Brock.
For me, Digital History is the field which explains how the various technological research tools and methods came to be. What were their purpose? What were the initial hurdles and obstacles that needed to be overcome? What was their initial goal and is it still the case years later. The internet, a well know tool which was originally meant for a specific purpose when it was created (basic files and data transfer has since evolved into something much different than what it once was.
Digital history is also the safe keeping of historical sources and data, there is a famous saying “the internet never forgets”. While the internet will never be able to replace primary sources completely it can certainly help to safekeep, share and pass on what we have learned onto others at almost no financial cost and faster than ever before. What used to take weeks searching for books in various libraries can now be done in a few days thanks to the internet as a research tool.
While the internet offers a great deal of tools and information it does have its drawbacks however, the internet has an incredibly large amount of information making it difficult sometime to find a place to start, especially on the more popular research topics. It can also be difficult to separate facts from opinions when researching certain fields leading to inaccurate conclusions (then again even primary sources also tend to have a bias in some cases).
In summary, I believe that understanding the making of these tools which we use every day could help us understand how to use them better and how they could evolve going forward.