Week #5 Journal

This week, we spent Monday pairing W.E.B. Dubois infographics with characters from Beloved, which was in certain ways an interesting way to approach a discussion post. Certainly it could be a productive approach for a series of charts like that of Dubois, where it’s hard to focus equally on each one and devote the same level of interrogation to each, whether one is looking at them in book form or in exhibit form. In this sense, random selection and the pairing with a subject could be a productive way to structure a discussion, though it must also make space for the potential loss of time in plate/theme pairings that don’t make a tremendous amount of sense.

For the rest of the week, we started presenting on Voyant Tools. I definitely feel like I learned a lot from my presentation in terms of using the Voyant Tools summary, which was a mundane enough aspect of the tool that I realized I was in some ways taking its usefulness for granted. I started out with an interest in the ‘distinctive words’ feature but ended up focusing more on vocabulary density and the mysterious ‘readability index’, which was actually in some ways the hardest point of Voyant data to discover information about, because I mistook it for a ‘Voyant word’ when it was in fact a more general term in text analysis.

I learned a lot from the other presentations, particularly from the ones that took place on Friday, which concerned obscure aspects of Voyant I hadn’t taken much care to explore on my own time. I’d always dismissed Bubblelines as completely incomprehensible, which made it in some ways a pleasant surprise to discover it was a lot more customizable than I’d given it credit for. I’d also failed to account for the usefulness of the Collocates feature, which I tried out after class on some of my own writing, and the intricacy and experimental potential of the Mandala presentation impressed me significantly, as this in particular was a tool I’d never known what to make of at all. I was less impressed by Knots and TextualArc, which seemed more like interesting one-off visual gimmicks than compelling vehicles for further exploration, but I did really admire the presenters who’d been tasked with making sense of them, which seemed in many ways like a far less straightforward task than the first-day basics I went over.

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