11 Dec 2011

How do I conduct intelligent text analysis within the Digital Humanities?

Before one can answer this question it’s necessary to provide a conceptual picture of what the Humanities actually mean and encompass. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines Humanities as the arts: liberal arts, literature, history, philosophy, classical studies, and classical literature. So Humanism as a field of study is complex and multidisciplinary by definition, a multi-faceted, all-encompassing and overlapping field.

The ‘digital’ in humanities denotes the metamorphosis (or recasting for want of a better word) of text through the process of methodical digitisation. The idea is to increase, qualitatively as well as quantitatively, access to cultural information via computational means. It also means transformation of scholarly communication by embracing multi-media, hyperlinking, social media (blogging, YouTube, Flickr, delicious, Twitter, collaborative annotation…) and effective Web searching. This also affects research, teaching and learning practices in a sense that scope and opportunities for community-based learning and collaboration are continuously evolving.

All of this is realised through the cooperative effort of humanists, IT technicians, librarians, archivists, students, and members of the public. Why the public? The public contributes valuable cultural materials that would otherwise remain undetected and inaccessible to interested audiences. A random example of constructive public participation would be Europeana’s recently launched World War One in pictures, letters and memories archive (see also previous blog entry).

From a pragmatic perspective, research within the digital humanities environment requires effective management of electronic texts. TAPoR is an online gateway and on-going collaborative project, which provides tools for sophisticated text analysis and retrieval. It affords the user an online environment for keeping track of texts they want to study (located on the web or uploaded) and analyse in different ways. Essentially, computer assisted text analysis environments go way beyond the ‘Find’ tool of a generic word processor. They provide researchers with the means to analyse large texts in a multi-faceted way and allow for searching word lists and complex word patterns. Crucially, text analysis results can be displayed in a variety of ways.

So, for example one can employ TAPoR portal recipes  to locate and identify themes within a text or aggregate information to explore a concept. It is also possible to filter for specific themes or analyse theoretical foundations in a given text. The portal is expansive and offers a variety of analytical templates.

Go ahead and sample them...



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