DH Tools

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the DH tools we’ve learned since the beginning of the course. There are so many tools available, but since we have less than two weeks left in the course, it’s difficult to incorporate all of the relevant tools into our project. Two of the tools that we were introduced to may be extremely useful to our project, and with enough time, we may be able to incorporate them both into our project.

Gwen Nally from the UVA Scholars Lab taught us how to use Voyant. Voyant is a text analysis tool where users can upload text files to be put through a “text mapping” process. Voyant analyzes the text and creates a “Cirrus,” a graphic composed of the words that most frequently exist throughout the text. Professor Youngman introduced us to the concept of “distant reading,” and Voyant could be considered to do just that. It analyzes the words to draw out the text’s characteristics. Users can apply “stop words” to eliminate words like “and” from the data set, or other words that may occur often but have no real significance. Text documents must be readable by Voyant, so they have to go through the OCR process before being submitted into Voyant. This could be considered a weakness of Voyant because there are many resources that have not gone through OCR and are therefore incompatible with the system. I tried to upload a URL of a digitized edition of Washington and Lee’s student yearbook, the Calyx, but the source was not in an appropriate format so Voyant couldn’t interpret it. When I used an OCR text of Ring Tum Phi articles, however, the Voyant tool worked well and proved to be very useful. We’re planning on incorporating the text graphics produced by Voyant into our project’s website to show the significance of coeducation and women in the student produced Ring Tum Phi newspaper.

Patrick discovered the VisualEyes tool on Bamboo DiRT today during class.  He suggested that this tool could be used for mapping or creating timelines in the context of our Beyond Bow Ties project, but the tool has many uses. Visual Eyes was created by UVA as a DH tool that bring together various types of data into one interactive, visual source. Visual Eyes has been used to create maps with clickable icons that bring up information with curated text and images. If we have enough time to develop and embed this tool on our website, we may be able to use our data sets to create one location that brings together different types of related information. One major strength of Visual Eyes is it’s primary function to create visualizations. These visualizations are powerful because they represent multiple kinds of information in one central location.

Professors Youngman and Sprenkle said they won’t be teaching us about any more tools because we need to have enough time to focus on incorporating the ones we’ve already learned into our projects. There are many tools besides the two that I’ve mentioned that Beyond Bow Ties has already begun utilizing, so I’m excited to see the direction that these tools guide our project in!