Digital Text Analysis: Blog #4 “Voyant Tools”

In the exploration of using a digital program such as Voyant Tools and other digital text analysis tools for work in the Digital Humanities, it is first and foremost imperative to recognize the fact that these are tools. They are helpful tools but they are ultimately just tools. These digital analysis tools and programs do not do the work on behalf of digital historians. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has developed exponentially over recent decades but has not (yet) reached a point for which it can replicate the complex cognitive abilities and human brain functioning required to complete the idea of traditional humanist scholarship. This can only be done by the human mind.

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These text analysis tools allows historians to quickly analyze patterns in large bodies of text. The use of these tools has sparked great debate in the digital humanities as to whether its effects are more helpful or harmful. There is something to be said about the aesthetic and the experience of being immersed in a specific geographical location and physically working through texts (e.g. physical archives). A digital text analysis cannot replicate this effect nor can it guarantee maximum effectiveness. By narrowing the search through specific word identification/recognition, there is the potential for valid, important, and/or beneficial information to be lost/cut from the search. However, some of the benefits of this program can drastically improve the efficiency of historical research and analysis. These tools provide opportunities that eliminates large amounts of time consuming and tedious sorting work but cutting out the fluff (any aspect of the text that is not related to the topic of research). This may be an asset to a historian who favours efficiency but is disliked by a historian who favours experience.

Without digital text analysis tools, many historians would spend much of their valuable research time “sorting”; something easily done through digital programming. These tools also allow historians to access digitized quantifiable (often statistical) comparisons within and between texts. With the quantifiable (objective) work being performed through digital means, historians can focus more of their time and energy on the qualitative (subjective) analysis that is (as it currently exists) outside of the reach of digital programming and artificial intelligence capabilities.

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These types of digital text analysis tools challenges and changes the progression of how information is acquired, processed and used. With respects to traditional historical skills this is not a new phenomenon, just a new type of technology. In more primitive times, before the introduction of print and written documentation, information was acquired processed, used, and transmitted solely through means of oral communications. When print was introduced, this drastically changed the game and information was now able to be read instead of heard. The introduction of written records negatively impacted the human capacity for memory. We see this cycle repeating itself with the introduction to more digital analysis tools and the implications it may have on human capacity for attention. This kind of analysis changes the game with respects to traditional historical reading skills. Just like the skill for hearing and oral communication was not completely lost with the introduction of print, the skill for reading and attention is not completely lost with the introduction of digital analysis. Digital text analysis tools may be a helpful aid, but the paired need for human scholarship helps to support why digital text analysis tools are beneficial to the work of digital historians and the digital humanities as a whole.



Voyant Tools Are Cool: Blog Post 4

Voyant tools and digital text analysis programs are suites that allow users to quickly breakdown important components of a piece of text like how many words are in the average sentence, the most common word in a piece of a text, the words that follow that word in sentences most often, where the words are located in each text and their frequency based on the timeline of the text, plus many more things. It provides visuals like graphs, scatterplots, and concept maps for the user to better understand what the information provided by the suite is saying. With all that Voyant can do one might wonder, how the syllabus might have the question “Does the ability to quickly analyze patterns in large bodies of text help or hinder historical analysis?” The question is one worth asking because what do all these tools actually do to allow us to understand history better?

For me personally, the question can be answered like most queries throughout life, that itis not black and white and comes down to a number of factors. The main factor is the type of historian that is using the suite of tools. Voyant can hinder historical analysis if the historian using it is lazy. The tools have the ability to quickly turn a large amount of text into quick facts about the text. The hindering of analysis comes into play here because if a historian does not use the tools correctly they still have enough information presented before them to make broad statements about the text was analyzed. They would never have to read the text, they would never have to dig deeper into the tools provided by Voyant, and they could do very little thinking to make statements about the past that were easily quantified by the tools but have a limited understanding for the actual piece of text. This is why Voyant can hinder historical analysis, however if you look at the average hardworking historian Voyant is quite helpful historical analysis. So don’t be this guy. z71

If a historian takes the time to read a piece of text prior to running it through Voyant and analyze and make assumptions about it, Voyant will be helpful in clarifying and confirming analysis and assumptions. On top of this new understandings can be provided to historians from Voyant by seeing relationships between words that may not have been picked up on when first reading it. Basically, if a historian takes some time to use the suite effectively and does not just use the original data displayed by Voyant it can be a very helpful tool to historical analysis. So then you can be this young lad. 29e

Yes, Voyant provides the ability to produce visuals of commonly used words that illustrate relationships in the text quickly that would take hours of time to do manually. The quantified data provided by Voyant for large amounts of text would also be very tedious to create manually. It is not that Voyant does something that the average human could not do, it just makes things infinitely quicker and allows us to dig deeper into the text because time can be saved.

Voyant allows historians to see trends in text that may never have seen before unless they were specifically being looked for. It does allow for the ability to quickly search through a text for keywords that makes reading portions of the text easier than reading a whole 50 page paper. Very important side not, I bet if I ran this through Voyant that my most commonly used words would be Tools, Voyant, the, historian and analysis. *This was a prediction lets see how I did. cool

*Okay I missed text but I did pretty good. *


Blog #4: Voyant Tools & Digital Text Analysis

This week I had the opportunity to explore Voyant Tools, a free and easy to use online source for digital text analysis. This tool allows users to simply copy and paste text or a URL into a textbox, by which the website transforms into data regarding terms used within the literature. Voyant tools produces data which provides historians with insight as to which patterns emerge among terms. For instance, Voyant tools analysis of digital text produces information on how many times certain terms are used in a body of text as well as links between terms. In addition, the tool allows historians to analyze larger bodies of text way faster while simultaneously comparing it to other texts. However, this tool doesn’t necessarily help historians and should only be used as a starting point in digital text analysis.

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Example of Circus tool on Voyant

Although, Voyant tools has its benefits there are also various downfalls. Due to the fact that this tool provides information regarding patterns of term usage and links between terms, historians may limit their focus to the surface information instead of digging deeper into the literature. This error could, however, be attributed to the user instead of the online text analysis tool as you must be an informed and educated user. In addition, the text analysis tool doesn’t seek to make claims about the subjective meaning of the terms either. Therefore, there is really no deep analysis of the text presented.

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Example of a Graph on Voyant

In conclusion, I believe that the Voyant text analysis tool provides historians with an easy to use site which highlights patterns that emerge within a body of text(s). However, this tool doesn’t provide historians with new information that they couldn’t have accessed otherwise. But, offers its users a quick and basic analysis of text which could be used as a starting point to further their research. In this case, Voyant text analysis tools aids in the traditional forms of historical reading. Allowing users to effortlessly and efficiently recognize patterns within the literature and begin their own thoughtful analysis, rather than the traditional more time consuming method of historical reading.

Post 4: Voyant Tools and Textual Analysis

Voyant Tools is a website that provides a free, easy to use, text analysis tool.  Any text can be pasted into the box, allowing the website to create data that comes from the words that are in the text.  For historians, it gives the ability to quickly analyze patterns in larger texts, which I think would help with historical analysis.  We discussed in class a lot how text analysis should be used, however, I think that the methodology is significant to show how things, like Voyant Tools, can help historians.  Through computer programs, larger text analysis provides a starting off point for more in depth reading and analysis.  By seeing what kind of words are used how often in a text it gives you an idea of what the text is about, and the nature of the text.  This information alone isn’t useful historically, but what this information can lead to could benefits historians.

Though I do think that there are ways that text analysis programs could hinder historical analysis.  It could potentially limit the perspective of the deeper reading by the historian that would occur after using the computer program.  For example, after the 95 Theses are run through Voyant Tools, it states that the two most commonly used words are “indulgences” and “pope.”  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.  However, this potential hindrance is mainly a problem of the historian, not a problem of the text analysis program.

The Voyant Tools results for the 95 Theses


I think that programs, like Voyant Tools, do not give anything new that couldn’t be accessed before, but rather, it makes what was extremely hard to access now easily accessible.  The amount of times the words “indulgences” and “pope” appeared in the 95 Theses can be counted out by hand, however, the text analysis programs make it a quick and easy task.  What before may have taken hours or days, now takes seconds.  It is another tool for a historian to use in making their own analysis of a text.

Overall, I think that this kind of textual analysis, through Voyant Tools, does help improve traditional historical reading skills.  In specific situations it can make some steps of large text analysis easier and quicker.  The results can become a jumping off point for the in depth reading that would take place after.  It gives the historian an idea of what to look for in a text, while also showing how the words relate to other words.

Blog Post 4

Voyant  is an easy to use site that allows you to input a piece of text, either by copy and pasting or using a URL. Once the user inputs the text the site works to help them see patterns within the text. Two features that are very useful are the word frequency and the links between words. Voyant helps the user see how often a word is used and the relationship of that word to other words in the text. This helps historical analysis because it highlights words that appear often, which likely means that the word is important. Being able to see words that are important helps get people thinking about why that word is important to that piece of text. There are also may visual tools  that allow users to see the  relationships between words in many different forms.


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There are word clouds, word bubbles, webs, graphs and many other ways of viewing the words. By providing many different was of viewing the text I think it will appeal to all different types of learners which makes this tool useful for everyone. Also being able to look at text in a form that is unconventional makes it more fun and engaging . If people are more engaged it will make the analysis of the words that are being highlighted by Voyant even better. Being able to see words in relation to one another gets people to think about and  analyze the meaning of a piece of text. While Voyant does not think about the meaning for you it helps you look for patterns that will help you create historical meaning. Through traditional historical reading the historian would have to look for patterns on their own, often in a large body of text this is hard to do and it would be very time-consuming. Using Voyant as a tool to facilitate the analysis of a body of text gives historians the ability to quickly see patterns and begin analyzing rather than spending a large amount of time finding the patterns. I think that Voyant is a very useful tool that makes analyzing text fun and rewarding.

Story maps… telling a story in style

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.

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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.

Blog #3: Geospatial History and Harlem

The site that attracted my interest in Geospatial History is Digital Harlem. Harlem was the legendary African-American area of New York, and was the site of nightlife, gambling, entertainment and crime. The authors have researched data from New York crime statistics from legal files for Harlem in 1920, 1925 and 1930. For example, arrests in Harlem, at specific addresses, can be plotted on a map for 1920.

The detail is enlivened by photographs, and the website has five different areas of map-making, particularly on Numbers gambling, the various nightlife venues (nightclubs, buffet flats, and speakeasies), churches, sports, and events that occurred in January 1925. There is a great deal of information on this website. Searches on the information can be done by individuals’ names, or events or locations. The text panels that are available really fill in detail that can’t be shown on a map.

The difficulty, and maybe the advantage, of maps of historical events, is that information is hard to present in a linear way. The data is somewhat scattered, and linking one fact with another is left up to the reader. Although this provides some freedom to the reader, it relieves the historian from having to make those connections. Historical theses and conclusions are left out. Every history map I have read – and there are lots here that I want to go back and review later – leave me wanting to know where I can get a book on the subject. Maybe that’s good, and that is the purpose of history maps. Or maybe it is better to leave the conclusions up to the visitor?

Blog #3

The HGIS map that I chose from the different options was the Caribbean Cholera map. This map was made in order to show the medical history and natural phenomena’s that existed in the Caribbean during the nineteenth century. It is easy to navigate through and shows the year and months that a certain event took place or type of technology came out. For example, from February to May in 1833 it marks down the dates that different technology was introduced in the Caribbean. Such as, the torchlight, and Salem gazette were discovered in Cuba that year.

Another interesting feature about this map is that it has tracked all of the Cholera outbreaks, hurricanes, tropical storms and news articles that happened in the Caribbean over the years. The map was created in 2011 by the Duke University Haiti Laboratory by a number of representatives. This particular map does not have very many points at the beginning of the nineteenth century but once you scroll ahead it becomes clear of the many events that had happened.

This HGIS map was made very well, it is interesting and easy to navigate through. This can help the society of the Caribbean in a very positive way because it can assist them in tracking different natural disasters, seeing if they were more common in the beginning of the nineteenth century or the end. This can give the locals an idea of the potential danger they may be in and allow them to prepare for the worst.

HGIS Review: Blog Post #3

The HGIS project that I looked at is the Spatial history project entitled Holocaust Geographies.  There are four main story maps that are within the project. Building the New Order shows land changes between borders in the time period between 1938-1945 in Europe. It is very interesting to see the expansion of Germany followed by the retraction of the German borders. One of the issues of this spatial history project is that it is difficult to tell the changes that the map is attempting to represent. By not clearly showing the expansion it has me feeling like this. Image result for sad old man meme

This map uses the data of historical border expansion and nothing else.Image result for germany flag

Another one of the maps used for the spatial history shows the number of arrests of Italian Jews around the country. It also breaks down how far away from their residence they were, the age breakdown of the people arrested, whether they were male or female, where on the map they were arrested with a circle showing how many were arrested in that area. The map is very interesting to look at and has a lot of statistics that provides valuable information to the understanding of holocaust activity. However, with all the statistics it is difficult to understand what to focus on and what is important. Statistics are important, but perhaps a bit of text breaking down the importance of each statistic in each frame would give a better understanding to the average viewer.  The map also shows whether Jews were arrested by Italian or German officers.

There are also three other main maps that are used to show the spatial history of the time. They are titled The evolution of the SS Concentration Camp System which uses the data of the locations in which Nazi Germany built up facilities around Europe. Another one of the maps shows the mobility of pedestrians around a Budapest Ghetto. It uses the time and foot traffic moving around points of interest to illustrate what life was like in the ghetto. All the maps provided by this Spatial history project provide vital statistics to the understanding of life around the Holocaust and is an excellent project.

HIST2P26 Blogpost #3

For my third blogpost I decided to analyze the Trans Atlantic Slave Visualization found on the HGIS site. This is map which I found to be extremely interesting. The creators of this site are a computer scientist and a historian whose specialty is slavery. This site is extremely easy to navigate which is a good indicator that the authors of this website have made it very user-friendly. In a way that anyone can use it and take in its data. You don’t have to have a doctorate in order to find your way around this site.

Contained within this site is data which indicates here the slaves were from as well as where they were going to be shipped to. We can also see what time during history these slaves were being traded. The first map indicates that most slaves had begun to be traded in Portugal and from there went to the United Kingdom then into Brazil. It is also seen that there were slaves being traded in the Unites States of America. Contained within the second map on this site is where slaves were being purchased from, it is first seen in the areas of Angola, furthermore, into Nigeria as well as Ghana and Guinea. The last map on this database depicts where the slaves had landed upon leaving their homes. It is seen that they had first landed in Venezuela then Argentina and further into the United States of America.

In total I believe this website to be a clear indicator of the data that it is attempting to portray. It provides accurate data and gave the reader a clear depiction of the slave trade.