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Digital Humanities Project

Many people argue whether digital humanities should be used when dealing with literature. There are a lot of skeptics who say that schools should stay away from the digital humanities, but what exactly IS digital humanities? When I searched google, it brought me to Wikipedia which states:
“The digital humanities is an area of study, research, teaching, and invention concerned with the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities. Sometimes called humanities computing, the field has focused on the digitization and analysis of materials related to the traditional disciplines of the humanities. Digital Humanities currently incorporates both digitized and born-digital materials and combines the methodologies from the traditional humanities disciplines (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, archaeology, music, and cultural studies) with tools provided by computing (such as data visualisation, information retrieval, data mining computational analysis) and digital publishing.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_humanities)
Now that we get a sense of what we’re dealing with, what is the main issue at hand? Whether using electronic devices, such as computers, is a beneficial way to gain knowledge from literature? Of course it is- I believe that digital humanities is the best way to interpret literature.

There are many positive aspects of using software programs to interpret literature. One of the software programs that I am now familiar with is called “Wordle.” This program allows the user to copy and paste a full body of text (whether it is a poem or story) and transforms that text into a disoriented view of the words. Some words appear larger than others and may be bolded. The words that appear the largest are the words that appear most often in the story, and vice versa. Other words may be in different colors and are slanted horizontally or vertically. The words used most often in the text appears bigger and vice versa. I posted an example of a “Wordle” below, it is the picture of words that are blue, green, yellow and black.

Teachers should use the “Wordle” device when in the classroom because it is a visual tool. It is also a free tool and very simple to use online. One can change the color, font, and use other appearance tools with their wordle, which engages students more than say writing a list of words in their notebook. Thus, the student can just “copy and paste” their text into the program, whereas before they would have to handwrite pages of words. What I was able to learn from my example of my first wordle is that it shows words in a different way to capture the readers attention. It makes you re-examine the words more carefully. It also makes the reader question why did the author specifically choose those words compared to its synonyms?

Another great software program one can use is called the “Ngram Viewer.” This software program lets you analyze and compare the usage of words and their synonyms in different time periods. For example, I posted below a comparison of the word “fury” (which came from my short story published in 1833) and the word “anger.”The word “fury” has decreased significantly since the 1800s. On the other hand, the word “anger” has stayed somewhat moderately the same amount of usage, but has increased almost ten percent from the years 1960 to 2000. This tool is useful when interpreting literature because it allows one to analyze and interpret the author’s choice of words and get a better understanding of the text. Before these software tools were introduced, one would have to go to the public library and spend countless amounts of hours sifting through index cards and dictionaries, but now, it can be done with just moving the mouse to your computer and clicking a few times.

A negative aspect to these new software programs however is that not everyone is fluent with using a computer. Sure, the majority of students know how to go online and check their Facebook or other social networks, or write a paper using Microsoft Word- but not everyone knows how to create their own blog, or write html code. Most students may actually prefer the “old school” method of teaching, using a pen and paper, because they’re whole life this is how they were taught. It may intimidate students because this new way of teaching is foreign and they are not used to it. If these software programs were introduced during students high school years, then they would have more practice with it and thus, be more comfortable using the computer to their advantage when dealing with literature.

A new generation is emerging, a technology advanced generation, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. Digital humanities is one of the best ways to interpret literature because it is simple, easy to use, and very effective. It may take some getting used to, but with practice comes perfection, which leads to a better understanding and appreciation for the many works of literature ahead of us.

Wordle: use of force

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