Recently in class, we discussed textual analysis, particularly word frequency. According to Ted Underwood, studying word frequency can show the development of certain words over time or allow for the comparison of certain texts. This study can be done by hand or with textual analysis software. If you have just one short document to look at, by hand is not a problem. However, if you are working with the entirety of Alexander Hamilton’s works, you are going to want to use the software. This can have both pros and cons. Pros: quicker, less work for you. Cons: computers cannot pick up on typos (for example if someone wrote “teh” instead of “the” the computer will consider it two different words) and software can be expensive.
In class, we used a website called Volant Tools in order to create a visual representation of a document. I looked at letters from Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol Building.
One letter I looked at was a letter written by Jefferson on April 22, 1807 concerning various architectural aspects of the Capitol building. I created a word cloud in order to analyze the documents, which is an image that projects frequently used words , with more often used words appearing larger than others.
Notice how it is fairly clear that this letter was about architecture, as seen from frequency of the words, “plastiering” (plastering), “dome” and “architecture” (duh). However, now look at this word cloud, analyzing a letter written on October 10, 1809.
This one is a little harder to tell the topic of the letter. It does emphasize the frequency of “capitol,”, it also says that “pleasure” and “doubt” were also used often. Is this talking about the Capitol building or something else entirely? I can tell you that a majority of the document is Jefferson inviting Latrobe to his home, hence the more vague terms. This is where a word cloud falls short. If the document changes topic, then the word cloud will be muddled with a variety of terms.
In other news, I will be using Georeferencing and will be calling my project, “Virtual Tour of the USCapitol”
Miranda, Lin-Mauel. “What Did I Miss?.” Hamilton, AvatarStudios, 2015, Genius, genius.com.