Week 5

September 23rd, 2015

Week 5 Tuesday:

Re: Exploration & Reading Assignments:

  • Explore “Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present”, which graphs the most-used words in each inaugural address from U.S. history, sized by number of uses. Pick two or three addresses for a close comparison. By looking carefully at these graphs (and without reading the full texts of the addresses), what can you infer about the addresses (such as changing concerns and rhetorical strategies)?
  • Read Harris’s short but highly polemical piece “ Word Clouds Considered Harmful.” What are his criticisms of word clouds? Has he persuaded you?
  • [Optional] Read the articles by Moretti and Hayles. What is “distant reading?” How does it differ from other modes of reading? Why does a humanist need it, or not need it, in her toolkit?

Getting prepared for the lab:

  • None.

Writing Assignment:

  • Start working on your first writing assignment. Writing is more than a way of presenting and sharing your ideas, but also a way for clarifying your thoughts and formulating your arguments. We take a process-based approach to writing in this course: for each writing assignment, you must first present a concept map and then an initial draft before submitting your final draft. Check out the instructions here and submit your concept map to the online drop box before noon on Tuesday. Please also bring a copy (digital or printed) of your concept map to Tuesday class for discussion. Use bubbl.us to create the concept map; if you forget how to do it, check out this 4-minute tutorial on Youtube.

Week 5 Thursday:

Re: Exploration & Reading Assignments:

Chapter 8 (“Theme”) from Matthew Jockers’ book Macroanalysis offers a very good introduction to topic modeling. This will be the focus of our discussion on Thursday. Enhance your understanding of Jockers’ piece by consulting the blogpost and websites for each question below. Consider the following questions while you read and explore.

  • You may start from the last paragraph on p.122 of Jockers’ piece. Consider : What is “topic modeling”? How does it work? (Jockers, pp.122-131). If you’d like to know a little bit more, consult Ted Underwood’s short blog post “Topic modeling made just simple enough” [this is optional] .
  • For an example of how topic modeling is employed in literary studies, continue reading. The rest of Jockers’ piece demonstrates how we benefit from applying topic modeling to a corpus of 3,346 nineteenth-century books.
  • Now read pp.118-122 in Jockers’ piece. Consider: What advantages does topic modeling offer over the word-frequency approach to text analysis (such as word clouds and Google N-gram Viewer)? You will also benefit from comparing the following websites, which take different approaches to the State of the Union addresses in U.S. history: Brad Borevitz’s State of the Union and SpeechWars take the word-frequency approach, while Topical Guide takes the topic modeling approach. [Exploration of these sites is required.]

Getting prepared for the lab:

  • None.
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