Practicum: Voyant Text Analysis, Due 2/14

We have had a chance to explore Voyant together with Frankenstein.txt or any website URL you would like to copy and paste into the tool for analysis. For this practicum, I would like to you perform a similar exercise to the one that we studied in Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair’s electronic essay using Voyant to compare discussions of race in Jeremiah Wright and Barrack Obama’s speeches. This practicum has 2 parts: (a) uploading and playing with Voyant to analyze 2 speeches, and (b) writing a blog post regarding your analyses of the speeches. Your analysis will answer the questions I pose below (or others, if you’re moved in another direction).

  1. Select two speeches or articles/essays/texts by political figures of your choice on a topic of your choice. These two speeches should share a common topic. Of course, they don’t have to agree!
  2. Load both speeches into Voyant. This is called “creating a corpus.” Here are the directions for how to do this in Voyant’s documentation.
  3. Visualize these two speeches in Voyant. Select 1 or 2 words that relate to the shared topic of these two speeches to study.
  4. Find these words in the Cirrus window. What information does the Cirrus window tell you about these words?
  5. Compare the word frequency use over the course of the text in both of these pieces using the Trends window (on the upper right). When you map the frequency of one against the other, what do you learn?
  6. Finally, return to the “Reader” window – the upper central window that contains the text. Find 2 meaningful uses of the word in context. How does your close reading of the word in context compare to the “big picture” text analyses the Cirrus and Trends windows reveal?
  7. What hypotheses or initial conclusions might you draw about the pieces you studied based on your explorations of the corpus with Voyant? Of course these are hypotheses, or possible arguments, that if we were writing a formal paper we would need to prove in a more concrete manner with evidence. Here, however, we have room to play, to imagine, to conjecture and posit, since this is no formal essay. So, what do you think? If this exercise was difficult for technical reasons, that is a perfectly legitimate topic to write about in  your blog post response for this practicum.

Need Help?: For troubleshooting, see Voyant’s documentation, which I find adequate to answer most of my questions when I use the tool. Of course, ask me questions, too!

Examples of kinds of texts to compare:

  • state-of-the-union addresses by the same or by different presidents
  • concession speeches
  • inauguration addresses
  • congressional floor speeches on a common topic
  • two different articles on a common topic from two different news sources
  • Note: let your interests and curiosities drive which texts to choose. Pick two texts and once you pick them stick with them. This isn’t a polished essay you’re writing. You simply need two texts to analyze with this tool.

Prep exercise for class on Thursday, February 9:

Here are 2 concession speeches (one by McCain and one by H. R. Clinton) to load into Voyant for your practice analysis that helps you get to know the tool. Your ultimate goal in this exercise is to select one word from each speech and use the Voyant window called “Trends” to map the frequency of a word from each text over the course of the text. Here are the instructions in Voyant documentation for this feature.




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