PDF version of this assignment.

Lab 2: Machine-assisted reading with pre-packaged tools

Thanks to Alan Liu for the original version of this lab.

The goal of this lab is to experiment with two of the most popular and easy to use ready-made tools for digital text analysis.

  1. Using the plain text Only Revolutions _files (you can find them in our class Box folder in the Lab 2 folder), experiment with two of the most popular tools that allow you to digitally analyze the text files: Voyant Tools (see Voyant documentation); and Lexos (read/skim In the Margins_, the Lexos manual; you might start with “The Lexos Workflow”).
  • Note: There are many, many more tools out there that do this kind of thing. TAPoR is a repository that collects many of them. If you like, you may also explore the tools collected in TAPoR for this lab. But be warned: there are lots of them (487 of them, to be exact).
  1. Create a post on our course site for your lab report and post souvenirs of your experimentation with each tool (categorize your post under “Lab 2”).

Souvenirs in this case will most likely involve taking screen shots of your experiments and uploading these to your post. You should also make sure to very briefly explain what each of the souvenirs you post means/represents (or what you did to achieve it/what it’s depicting/what it means). If you’re not sure what I mean by this, take a look at what students at UCSB in Alan Liu’s undergraduate digital methods class have done here.

  1. Write a report explaining what you did in Lab 2 and what you learned. I’m interested in your thoughts about what these tools can reveal to us about Only Revolutions and about literary texts in general. Some questions you might consider as you compose your report include:
  • What challenges did you confront in using these tools? How did you deal with these challenges?
  • How do these tools and methods of analysis complement close reading?
  • What do these tools allow us to see/do/know that close reading does not?
  • What does close reading allow us to see/do/know that these tools do not?
  • What did you learn about Only Revolutions through using these tools, and how might this knowledge help you in writing a close reading of Only Revolutions?
  • What is the place of these tools in literary studies overall?

You do not need to answer all of these questions in your post; focus on one or two. You do not need to have a central argument (although it’s fine if you have one). The goal of this lab report is to think about what kinds of knowledge these digital tools can or cannot help us produce. In other words, you are encouraged to think about how this mode of textual analysis changes our attention to literary texts and the kinds of knowledge we derive from them.

You must also connect your reflections to at least one of the scholarly articles we have read so far this semester (the pieces we have read about close reading seem particularly well-suited to this lab report).

You might think about this lab report as a seed for or as part of the reflection component of your close reading paper. In fact I encourage you to use some your writing from this lab report in your paper.

Shoot for 500-750 words.