In Seven ways humanists are using computers to understand text, a blog post dedicated to understanding and exploring how humanists, or us people who use literature and like to read and research, use digital tools. Ted Underwood posted this picture and explains every purple term:
Here is how I how I think my undergraduate students understand or actually use some of these terms, or ways of understanding text. I will change the titles and explain a bit, and then ask a few questions that I would like us to think about in class, since I will be presenting on this article tomorrow. Here is how computers help me as a professor, or how computers help my students:
- Visualize single text—-means—-watching a YouTube video/ watching a movie: BY this the author means that we understand a somewhat static text (dare I say a book) even more when we see it.
2. Choose features to represent text———becomes—–Jstore and Google. I think my students have not learned the use of Google Ngram nor do they understand how powerful it is to visually see a text represented, but when they go to Jstore (because I forced them), and they see thousands of results coming up for novels they are reading, they understand the vast world they live in. They suddenly understand that they are not the only ones engaging with text.
3. Identify Distinctive Vocabulary——–becomes—– the FIND key on an article or pdf. Granted, the research will show them how many words an author has used in one text, and it does not compare it to other texts, but that’s a start. By using computers (and forgetting the Internet here), a student visually sees representation of texts ( a word) in numbers.
As for the remaining categories, I think they are a bit advanced for my undergraduates (
and myself) but what I understand is that we not only can use data, but also manipulate it, predict it, and create models of it. The examples given in the blog post are helpful, but it is a bit hard for me to understand how to do what these models do.
I look forward to hearing from you in class, but here are a few questions I would like us to think about and attempt to answer during my presentation:
- Does depending on computational methods take away from traditional ways of reading and understanding text? If so, why is this good or bad?
- How do you engage with computers in the way you create, be it art, or literature, or writing for class?
- What do we miss by NOT using computers/ models/ the digital world?
- should we introduce our students to these tools? Underwood writes: “In principle, everything above is accessible for undergraduates, with a semester or two of preparation — but it’s not preparation of a kind that English or History majors are guaranteed to have”. Should we prepare ourselves in order to prepare them?