Sunday, April 23, 2017

DiRT Directory & Gephi

I believe I mentioned this in my introductory comments at the beginning of the semester, but I am obsessed with interested in dystopian literature, and plan on writing my making it the topic of my thesis.

My interest in this field of literature is two-fold. First of all, dystopian worlds are particularly fascinating because they are the manifestation of people's fears of the unknown future-- usually this unknown future is filled with government control and thought-policing. These fears become all the more frightening when people start to recognize the doom of Orwell's 1984 encroaching on our own society. The second reason I am drawn to dystopian literature is because I have a great love of children's literature, and the dystopian genre has taken off in young adult and children's literature. It is interesting to me that children have always been a part of dystopian stories (for example, in 1984, children turn in their parents for wrong-think), but now they are becoming the main characters.

This is where DH comes in. I'm interested in finding programs that will help me pinpoint references to children and the theme of childhood in dystopian novels. To do this, I will need a program that takes the text I put into it, and spits out visualizations. This is where DiRT Directory comes in.

DiRT Directory is something I learned about at THATcampDC, and it has changed the course of my research. DiRT means "Digital Research Tools," and this website serves as a collection of resources that are organized by category. Each entry on the site has an about page where a synopsis of the tool is given, as well as the link to download the tool. Here's an example.

First, on the home page, you must decide the kind of tool you need for your work:

For my purposes, I looked up Visualization. This next image shows the further options that appear when a category is selected. For "Platform," I chose "Windows." For "Cost," I chose "Free."

Here are some of the programs that are listed in the results for "Visualization+Windows+Free." There are many more than are pictured, this is just a sampling.

Gephi and Weave stuck out to me as potentially helpful to my work, and so I clicked them both. Here's what the description pages look like:

DiRT Directory is an excellent resource because it offers links a multitude of programs that can be used in a multitude of ways. I decided to download Gephi because it seemed like it would be helpful, and I had heard the name tossed around at THATcampDC. With the help of DiRT Directory, I was able to pinpoint a resource which, prior to this point, had been a challenge.

Although Gephi looks daunting, I was able to harness the power of the internet to find 
tutorials and examples of how to best harness the program's power. Gephi's website is pretty straight forward in explaining the goals and usages of the program, and served as a helpful jumping-off point.

Here is a fantastic step-by-step tutorial that I found, which imports the text of Les Miserables in order to analyze connections between characters. This link was particularly helpful to me because, although Gephi can be used to visualize all kinds of data, this is the kind of data I will be working with.

Here is a slightly more complex tutorial which includes information about the coding behind the program.

This next link is also a tutorial, but I am including it to show the kinds of visualizations that can be achieved by Gephi.

"Visualizing Historical Networks" is a group of projects hosted by the Center for History and Economics at Harvard University, which utilized Gephi to "map the way people in the past interacted with each other and their surroundings." I encourage you to peruse the site, the work is fascinating!

Gephi appears to be an incredibly helpful tool, and I'm excited to play around with it in my own research!

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