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dc.contributor.authorCole, Katharine
dc.contributor.authorLein, Julie
dc.descriptionPresented at “Big Data & Uncertainty in the Humanities”, University of Kansas, September 22, 2012. Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities:

Katharine Coles is at the University of Utah.

Julie Lein is at the University of Utah.
dc.description.abstractUnder a grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in the US and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, and JISC in the UK, we recently embarked on a poetry visualization project with a group of computer scientists at Oxford University. Together we are working to see whether and how new software that treats poems as large data sets might help literary scholars and poets make observations, interpretations, and poems that might not otherwise be possible. While our initial visualizations will help scholars to perceive and analyze sonic devices in individual poems, eventually we hope to be able to use these original visualization tools to analyze large poetry corpora, such as those available online through organizations like the Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

The project fits into a growing tradition of collaboration between computer scientists specializing in visualization and simulation, and researchers in scientific fields as diverse as neurology, economics, and combustion. Often richly productive, these partnerships also require flexibility, openness, and intellectual generosity from all members in order to navigate differences in approach, understanding, and expectation. If boundaries between scientific disciplines may sometimes seem enormous, the boundaries between computer scientists and literary scholars may appear insurmountable. Computer scientists by training are likely to be more conversant with scientific disciplines than literary disciplines. Conversely, though literary scholars routinely use computers as tools, we know relatively little about their capacity to deal with complex systems like literary texts and the uncertainties they embody. Likewise, though we are used to considering texts as complex systems embodying uncertainty, we are not accustomed to thinking of them in terms of data.

During our presentation, we will share preliminary attempts at visualization, discuss the directions they suggest for creating visualizations that will be useful to literary scholars, and talk about the collaborative process that has brought us to this point.

Poems are small on the outside but large on the inside—not only in how they use tiny elements of meter, rhyme, and literary figure to access theme, but also in the complexity with which their elements interact. In this, they are unique in how they help us to understand scale and scope. Blake was able “To see a world in a grain of sand.” We see poems as living things, as complex in their movements as a brain or a heart. We will talk about how our team has struggled together to see how data inherent not only in vast digital libraries, but also in a single poem, is “big.” In this sense, we are confident that exploring poems in terms of “big data” might actually enhance, rather than compete with, close readings.
dc.subjectDigital Humanitiesen_US
dc.subjectBig Dataen_US
dc.titleA World in a Grain of Sand: Uncertainty & Poetry Corpora Visualizationen_US

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