Visualizing The Little Review

Using the Voyeur corpus to close read The Little Review was a great way to narrow down topics and find the issues that discussed specific key words and topics. As for close reading, the Voyeur tools help to narrow down what you're looking at.  Using the corpus to modify the key words shows you the issues of the magazine that are relevent, to which you can go into the archive and find the articles that most relate to what you're looking for.  I also enjoyed typing in words that were in opposition to each other, such as Democrat and Republican, and going back into the archive to see what kinds of articles were in the issues that had a high number of each of the categories, as well as seeing the timeline of when those words were more prevalent.  Democrat and Republican were both more prevalent in the issues leading up to elections, and the two words were used in different numbers during the war vs before the war. 

One of the interesting things was looking at the graph of all the issues, seeing what words were more prevalent in what issues of the magazine.  For instance, the word "life" was super prevalent in volume one and was a word that the entire magazine was supposed to revolve around, yet the use of the word "life" dropped off after the first few issues.  I also used the word search to search for more fun words, such as ketchup, mustard and mayo, princess, puppy, etc.  For the most part, my fun words had very little roles in The Little Review.

 

Voyeur Tools

Ì enjoyed Voyeur Tools but I found some things wanting in it. By far, my favorite feature was the word cloud; picking out information with it was straightforward and reminded me of Moretti's graphs in the distant reading piece. While the word trends tool was fun to play around with, I found myself increasingly frustrated with it. Instead of seeing the whole corpus represented and choosing a focus, searching the word trends had me wracking my brain to come up with combinations that would be fruitful or interesting. I did find an interesting spike in the use of the word "woman" in The Little Review's 11th issue (1915-02). When I went through the issue in the archive, I found a script with a character simply named "The Woman;" her name definitely contributed to the spike in iterations.

Voyeur Tools has already done a lot of the data reduction for the user, seemingly to the point of encouraging the user to do more additive functions ("oh, let's put 'violin' in contrast with 'music' and see how the relative graphs change"). It seems to me that it's far easier to miss out on interesting or important correlations with selective or additive functions such as this. Trying to guess at things (especially in using the various search bars) made reading The Little Review harder for me.

 

Voyeur Tools

I have to say, I think the Voyeur Tools is my favorite program that we have looked at in class thus far. I really like the look of the visual representations, and I really appreciate that there are multiple visual representation options. My favorite part, however, is that the program offers the actual statistical data that the visual represents. Particularly in the word trends widget, I like that the frequency of the word is actually shown, and the issue itself is accessible.

For example, I looked up the words art and new. In word trends, I found that art is talked about much more frequently than things being new. This struck me because my last interaction with art was the Prologue to Dorian Grey, which talks about the importance of making things new via art. I understood this idea to be central to the modernist movement. In the word trends, however, I found that the issue with the most uses of the word art is the issue with the fewest uses of the word new. Just from this data I began to think that their definition or explanation of art would be quite different than Oscar Wilde's, and after I looked at the issue for myself, I found that I was right: their definition of art was quite different. I thought that it was fascinating that I was able to see this in nothing more than squiggly lines of a page!

The Little Review through Voyant Tools

Voyant Tools made it easier to “read” The Little Review in the sense that you can know the overarching theme of the magazine or an issue in specific without having to actually read every piece of writing in it. The word cloud was really helpful in finding out the general theme(s). The graphs of search words, though, was more helpful if you wanted to know how prevalent a certain word was, and since you could relate it to a certain issue where it was either remarkably low or high, it helped put it into historical perspective too. That was more interesting to me because then you could see the social effects of big events, like how we talked about the rise of censorship during the war and how they didn’t even use the word war. That’s not something that would be immediately recognizable, unless perhaps you were specifically looking for it, just by reading every page of the journal.

One thing I found when going back to read the journal after looking at the graph of words that I’d searched is that it wasn’t always truly representative of the issue. Like in class, when Brooke searched Democrat and Republican and it showed one issue that had a lot of mentions of Democrat, but it turned out to just be a piece entitled The Democrat, which made liberal use of the word. If you were to just look at the graph without going back to the actual journal, you could come away with a skewed vision of what the journal represented. Other times, it was completely accurate, and it turned out to be something related to the current events of the time, which you wouldn’t have been able to see without comparing it to the issues published in later years. 

 

Gephi

Though I haven't been able to do more exploring on Gephi since I don't have my own laptop, during the time we spent on it in class I was able to do a fair amount of exploring. It was interesting to see a visual representation of the themes in The Little Review  that we had discussed in class last week.  The visual map and nodes confirmed  that death was a key theme, if not the key theme of the magazine. Poetry and T.S. Eliot, not surprisingly,  in turn seemed to have a strong connection with the theme of death.  I also found it helpful to zero in on the connecting lines and their thickness or thinness. With little effort Gephi helped me see themes and connections that were strong in the magazine and also allowed me to see the smaller or more subtle connections and themes. I loved that Gephi provides this way of examining a large amount of text in the same screen view and offers a springboard for further study. 

Gephi, Graphs, and Ways to Read Magazines

I enjoyed the concept of Gephi, though the operationalization of it was tricky. I enjoyed seeing how the sea of words and cells from our timeline spreadsheet was turned into a map of sorts through the graphing tools, though I also found some of the limitations amusing (my program kept mapping TS and Eliot separately - no surprise, they had many shared edges!). It would be neat to see this program cleaned up and made more user-friendly.

I see one of Gephi's great strengths lying in the way it seems to help overcome some of the difficulties with reading magazines through their online PDF or screenshot instantiations. In Dr. Latham's "Unpacking My Digital Library" piece, he discusses how the common approach to reading a magazine is to flip through an issue, stopping at various articles/scriptons, maybe going through the piece a few times with different sequences, but not to do a linear reading progression from start to finish. The presentation of digitized versions of magazines we've been looking at lately has created an environment that tends to constrain the reader to start-to-finish reading; it's hard to flip through a PDF the way you can flip through a magazine. In contrast, Gephi makes it easy to hover over various nodes and look at their connections at will. In this way, I think Gephi helps restore in the digital realm an important element of and approach to reading magazines.

Thoughts on Gephi

While I still don't fully understand the program and probably never will, Gephi was really fun to play around with, and I actually found it easier to understand than some of the websites we've visited. I won't lie, though. At first I thought the placement of the nodes was completely random and had no idea what was going on. It was only when I experimented with coloring the nodes that I realized how they were related to one another. The layout and placement were extremely intricate, but I found that the more you played around with colors and themes, the easier it became to read. Obviously more general nodes like "poetry" were cluttered and highly populated while author's names were less connected. It surprised me that "death" was the most populated overall.

Once you understand how Gephi fuctions and how to best understand the correlation between the nodes, the program is a very helpful and interesting tool. I enjoyed using it.

The Nebula of Gephi

I have, unfortunately, been unable to use Gephi. I've uninstalled and reinstalled various versions of the beta - 7 and 8 - and it refuses to work. I hate to blame technology for something I could fix myself if I were more tech-savvy, but I'm pretty sure it keeps messing up because my computer runs on Vista.

That being said, I would like to discuss the idea of Gephi.

Gephi takes the vast world of literary analysis and compacts it into a tiny little nebula of information. Trends are turned into tiny planets and stars in the nebula that Gephi creates from each piece of work it reads. It takes information and data that would otherwise take hours to accrue, and consolidates them into easily-viewed "nodes" on its web graph. Looking at the graph itself is... different.

Personally, I have never studied literature in such a mathematical fashion, and, I'm going to be frank, it's weird to me. However, I do think it's necessary with the endlessly expanding universe of literature and knowledge. Without programs like Gephi, knowledge and information disappear into the abyss. As humbling a realization this is, it is impossible for humans to capture, analyze, and use every bit of knowledge we come across. As The Library of Babel and the literary philosophy of Derrida's Mal d'Archive posit, an archive has a "death drive". Constantly expanding to the point of disappearing into the margins, the vast and expanding oeuvre of mankind does not want to be known.

While I generally roll my eyes at people who think machines will supersede mankind, it is when I see programs like Gephi that I can sympathize a little with that paranoia. Humans just aren't good enough anymore. We create at a faster rate than we can analyze and archive, and efforts to become more efficient are made in vain. Gephi can gather up and read information, then preserve it in cryogenic stasis for man to further explore.

Experiences with Gephi

In the humanities, it’s always nice when technical, “objective” sources agree with what we’ve come to believe is true through more subjective interpretation. This is what happened with regards to our conclusion from last week that death is the major scripton of the September 1918 Little Review. Death has the highest degree of any terms, 60, while the average degree is 15.6. In some format that I happened upon (full disclosure, I have no idea how I got Gephi to do this), the size of the label corresponds to the degree of the item. Death, in comparison to the other items, is huge. Clearly, it is a key piece of this magazine.

Another interesting element of the network graph is pentagon/star formed by 5 major topics of The Little Review: Death, Poem, T.S. Eliot, Poetry, and Art. Each of these important scriptons (they all have a degree of at least 22) is connected to the others in the pentagon. Beyond emphasizing the importance of each of these scriptons, I’m not totally sure how to read this pentagon graphic, or even if it needs to be considered in greater depth.

Though I was initially quite frustrated with Gephi, I do think that it is a very cool program, especially for people who are visual learners. I’m constantly drawing up timelines, looking at maps, and drawing arrows in my notes because I love being able to physically see connections and relationships. Like a lot of things with technology, it’s a program that takes some practice, and I know my frustration was a product of my lack of knowledge, not the quality of the program. No, it’s not the most intuitive program, but it’s not terribly difficult figure out if you give yourself some time to read directions and just play around. I can definitely see myself using this program in the future, assuming I can learn how to create the data sets that form the backbone of the graph. 

"Reading" Gephi

I think that Gephi actually made it a bit more difficult to “read” the Little Review, but that’s probably because I don’t fully understand everything that the program can do and/or how to do it. It was helpful, though, to see how everything was connected because it wasn’t so obvious at first how they were, just reading it page by page. Something else that was really helpful/interesting was to see how you could isolate one of the nodes and it showed you what else was connected to that one, so you could see how one theme or author was represented throughout the magazine. I think it would be really cool if you could click on a node and see the actual journal page, kind of a mixture of the Modernist Journals Project and Gephi, and then all of the pages of the nodes that are linked to that one; that would allow you to “read” it through the graph, and to actually read it. Plus, it would make the issue’s themes easily searchable. (I tried to add screenshots, but they were not working for me.)

 

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