Workshop: Visualization for Literary History

This tutorial is full, and registration is closed as of June 1, 2011.

Full-day workshop
Time: Saturday, June 18, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Room: 220 Meyer Library (Flex Classroom)

Topics: interface design, literary studies, text analysis
Keywords: visualization, literary history, text mining, social networks, tool development

Susan Brown, Stan Ruecker, Geoffrey Rockwell, Stéfan Sinclair

1. Title and brief description

Workshop: Visualization for literary history

This workshop will present, demonstrate, and provide participants with the opportunity to test and discuss prototypes of several experimental visualization tools for literary studies. The tools will provide a range of approaches to visualizing the Orlando Project’s textbase. Some but not all will allow for input of other data.

The Orlando Project’s fifteen-year experiment in literary history explores the potential of computers to support new modes of humanities research, particularly the potential of digital technologies to enable interpretive and critical scholarship. The major result of that endeavour, the online Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present (Brown et al 2006), constitutes the single most extensive and detailed resource in the area, hailed by the Modern Language Association’s Guide to

Literary Research as “a model for similar databases that will supplant printed literary dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks” (Harner). Though Orlando resembles a reference work, its electronic structure embeds an entire critical and theoretical framework to support advanced literary historical enquiry. The workshop proposed here will present and allow participants to experiment with prototypes based on emergent methods in text mining and visualization that leverage that embedded structure to enable new discovery paths in literary history.

The Orlando textbase—about 70 print volumes’ worth of born-digital scholarship encoded with an XML tagset of more than 250 tags covering the production, characteristics, and reception of texts)—constitutes a rare testbed for investigating the mining of structured text. Its online interface and search system were developed according to W3C standards to exploit the underlying markup, and designed to meet the expectation of text-oriented users of conventional online tools. This existing interface is very search-oriented and entirely textual in its delivery of results.

Current research in humanities computing and human-computer interaction is increasingly expanding beyond the text-oriented information retrieval paradigm, to explore instead the many opportunities offered by new, more flexible, more visually-oriented platforms for web delivery (e.g. Ahlberg and Shneiderman 1994; Bederson 2000, 2001; Harris 2006, 2007; Greengrass and Hughes, 2008). In this period of transformation, the scholarly interface requires not only experimentation but also careful

assessment to see what works to make digital materials of real value to humanities scholars. As argued by Ramsay (2003), Unsworth (2006), and others, using computers to do literary research can contribute to hermeneutic or interpretive inquiry. Digital humanities research has inherited from computational science a leaning towards systematic knowledge representation. This has proved serviceable in some humanities activities, such as editing, but digital methods have far more to offer the humanities than this. As Drucker and Nowviskie have argued, “The computational processes that serve speculative inquiry must be dynamic and constitutive in their operation, not merely procedural and mechanistic” (431).

Our goal for this workshop is to provide those interested in literary studies and the digital humanities with an introduction to some of the tools being developed to support interactive speculative inquiry through text mining and visualization. In the process, we hope to garner insight into users’ reactions to these tools to inform further design and development activities. The prototypes presented at this workshop are being developed as possible interfaces to complement Orlando’s current, more conventional one.

The protoptypes will include:

• the Mandala XML browser

o this browser allows users to create “magnets” based on free text or XML search that attract to them items in a text collection, and to visualize the relationships between different sets. It can be used with the Orlando data or with other textual datasets. (Sinclair and Ruecker)

• Orlando Degrees of Separation tool

o this tools shows the connections between individuals in the Orlando data by way of other people, places, organizations, or titles. The challenge is in organizing the visualization of the paths when there are multiple ones, as there frequently are in this highly interlinked set of data

• OrlandoVision, a network graph visualization tool

o creates a social network graph of in which individuals’ names are nodes and links between them are edges, which are color-coded according to the semantic context of the link as represented in the markup

• Breadboard interface for tracing links between individuals and entities

o a more textually-oriented interface for browsing links between indviduals and entities within the Orlando data

• Voyeur

o a general-purpose web-based text analysis environment designed for large-scale corpora; includes experimental visualization modules for exploring word trends, named entities, and other textual features

• possibly other visualization tools emergent from current research

o we are experimenting with other mining and visualization tools between now and DH2011 and may pull any that seem to have potential into the workshop program

This workshop will be offered in relation to research on visualization for literary research, and participants will be asked, but not required, to participate in the study through surveys, interviews, and recording of user sessions. We have obtained ethics clearance for this activity from our respective universities and we will make the connection to the research study clear in the call for participants.

Works Cited:

Ahlberg, C. and B. Shneiderman. “The Alphaslider: A compact and rapid selector.” Conference proceedings on human factors in computing systems: “celebrating interdependence.” 1994: 365–371.

Bederson, B. “PhotoMesa: A zoomable image browser using quantum treemaps and bubblemaps.” Proceedings of the 14th annual ACM symposium on user interface software and technology. 2001: 71–80.

Brown, Susan. Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Ed. with Patricia Clements and Isobel Grundy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006a.

Drucker, J. & B. Nowviskie. “Speculative computing: Aesthetic provocations in humanities computing.” A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. S. Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004..

Greengrass, Mark and Lorna Hughes, ed. The Virtual Representation of the Past. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, December 2008.

Harner, James L. Literary Research Guide: An Annotated Listing of Reference Sources in English Literary Studies, 5th edition. New York, MLA, 2008.

Harris, J. “10 by 10: 100 words and pictures that define the time.”×10.html. 2006.

Ramsay, Stephen. “Toward an Algorithmic Criticism.” Literary and Linguistic Computing. 18.2 (2003).

Sinclair, Stéfan, Stan Ruecker, et al. Mandala Rich Prospect Browser. 2008.

Unsworth, John. New methods for humanities research. 2005 Lyman Award Lecture. Available at: 2006.

2. A description of target audience and expected number of participants.

The primary users of Orlando are literary scholars, and graduate and undergraduate students of English. The prototypes and workshops are likely to be of interest also to literary scholars in other fields and to librarians.

Based on other workshops I have attended at DH I would say we will get about 20 participants but it could be more.

3. The intended length and format of the workshop (minimum half-day;

maximum one and a half days).

One day; a half-day would be possible (but more rushed) if a full day cannot be accommodated.

Provisional format:

• overview of humanities visualization: challenges and strategies

• hands-on sessions with tools: these will take the form of basic introduction to the tool followed by hands-on sessions by users, followed by group discussion of pros and cons of the tool.

• lunch

• presentations by participants on visualization

• hands-on sessions with tools

• wrap: up discussion

4. A budget proposal

We assume that the workshop fees can cover the costs of the room, if any, and technical needs.

At least two members of the workshop program committee will be present at the workshop, plus a research assistant whose attendance at the conference and participation in the workshop will be funded by us. All costs associated with such attendance will be borne by us. We will cover the costs of any necessary handouts or media.

We will provide lunch for participants if the terms of our funding permit it. If any of the registration fees would be available towards such costs, that would be welcome.

5. Dates for submission deadline and notification of acceptances.

There will be no CFP and we’ll go with the usual DH registration schedule.

We will ask registrants to apply with a specific topic in mind and a description of their background and experience, and we will invite participants to give short presentations on visualization tools that they have developed or used and found useful.

6. A list of individuals who have agreed to be part of the workshop program committee.

Stan Ruecker, English and Humanities Computing, University of Alberta

Geoffrey Rockwell, Philosophy and Humanities Computing, University of Alberta

Stéfan Sinclair, Communications and Multimedia, McMaster University

7. Full postal address, phone number, email and fax of the workshop

contact person.

Susan Brown

School of English and Theatre Studies

University of Guelph

Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W0

(519) 824-4120 x53266

(519) 766-0844

8. Special Requirements.

Internet access for all participants, ideally high speed rather than wireless.

A screen projector.

We will ask participants to bring their own laptops, as well as bringing a couple of laptops that will be usable if theirs are not.

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