New Tools

Gwen from UVA Scholars’ lab introduced us to Google Ngram in her discussion of differentiating reading through physical books versus sifting through online publications. In his article “Technology is Taking Over English Departments: The false promise of the digital humanities,” Adam Kirsch defines Google Ngram Viewer as “an online tool that allows you to map the frequency of words in all the printed matter digitized by Google” (4). Gwen asked our class, “How does asking Ngram questions differ from regular reading?” Ngram provides distance between reader and text, and distance proves useful if you want to ask broad questions. In addition to this, Ngram allows you to see your information displayed on a timeline. It filters information for you, thereby allowing you to gain a better understanding of its presence throughout history. However, the distance separates the reader from specifics within texts, offering infinite information that one cannot physically process in a lifetime. Kirsch explains, “Big data is going to change the humanities” (4). The creators of Google Ngram explain that “the digital analysis of literature tells us what we already know rather than leading us in new directions,” (4) which poses as a weakness for filtering out unnecessary information.

During lab today, I examined a tool in Bamboo DiRT under the category “Brainstorm/Generate Ideas.” Although tools under this section would have been more helpful a couple weeks ago when we first began brainstorming for our project, they can still serve to help us organize our project ideas moving forward. The tool that I chose is called “Bubbl.us” and it opens as a webpage with a simple design and a large button commanding me to click and “Start Brainstorming.” The site does not offer initial directions on how to start brainstorming, which poses an immediate weakness to its effectiveness and attractiveness. However, the site proved simple enough to navigate, and I quickly began to appreciate its ability to help me organize my thoughts. I began with the layout that we already have on our Beyond Bowties WordPress page, and used the bubbles to divide my thoughts into categories that relate to one another. I can then export the thought process and save it for future reference at no expense. The account is free to create, and it is easily accessible. This site could prove very useful this week, because we are at a pivotal point in our WordPress creation, and by organizing our thoughts on this site we can easily map out what we want to add.