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Research Report by Mike Smith

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Research Report: Visually Analyzing Texts Through Technology



By Mike Smith, Hemingway Short Story


  1. The TAPoR Web site is, as the acronym implies, a portal to text analysis tools.  This portal will allow users to apply many different kinds of text analysis tools to any texts that they upload into the Web site. Once the texts have been uploaded they can be saved to the site for further research. The site offers a vast array of tools with many different purposes. The tools range from a simple word finder to tools that may not necessarily have any immediate usefulness, such as the raining word tool which visualizes the words of the text raining down with the most often used words being the biggest “drops”.

  2. The TAPoR, which stands for texts analysis portal for research, is as it says a path to methods of texts analysis. The TAPoR project was created through a support network of several universities including McMaster University, University of Victoria, university of Alberta, and several others. On top of the support from these universities the TAPoR project also enjoys support from two independent associations the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Text Analysis Developers Alliance. The combination of the efforts of all these partners is why the TAPoR is available to use.

                The home page of the TAPoR web site gives the user a very good look into what the TAPoR is all about. The left column of the home page, titled “welcome,” gives the user a quick description of the site: the “TAPoR is a gateway to tools for sophisticated analysis and retrieval, along with representative texts for experimentation.” Below that there is a list of feature the site offers and a link to register for a free account. Then after that, below the heading “want to learn more?” there are several links to other pages that can show a user around the site and its features. The links take the user to several different pages including the main TAPoR research page as well as a link to a tour of the Web site and tutorial on how to use the tools provided by the Web site. One of the more interesting links is the last one that sends you to the WikiTADA site and gives your “recipes” for analyzing a number of different kinds of texts. What the recipes do is give you the mix of tools and the steps you have to use within the TAPoR to get the desired result.


                The meat of the Web site is the tools it allows you to use. On the home page it allows you to test out the tools on some of the texts that the TAPoR has provided or you can upload some texts from another Web site. To access the full use of the Web site you have to sign up for a free account. There are several links to register for an account on the main page. The only required information is the user full name, email, and to create a user name. Once you have done this, a confirmation email will be sent to the email that the user provided.  In that email will be a generated password that the user can then log into the site with and change to whatever it is the user wants.


                Once logged into the Web site the user is brought to the users section of the TAPoR. This includes three different sections or tabs at the top of the screen. The tab that you log into is the “my texts” tab, which is where you can manage all of the different texts that the user will be analyzing. In this tab the user can upload, edit, and use the tools provided on any texts they want. Also on this tab the user can explore other electronic text collections and search the lists of texts that already exist on the TAPoR. There is even a section where you can send messages to other TAPoR users something like an instant messaging program.


                The next tab is the “workbench” tab. In this area of the site you can implement the text analysis tools and then save the results. Here on the work bench is where the majority of the work will be done. The texts analysis tools that are at the users disposal range from concordances, which show where in a texts a certain word shows up and in what contexts, to other less apparently useful tools such as the word brush or the raining word tool. Each tool has its own specific parameters that the user can manipulate. Some of the more common parameters include including or excluding Glasgow stop words, what section of the work the user wants to analyze, or the amount of contexts surrounding the analyzed results. These parameters allow the user to fine tune their analysis to fit exactly what it is they need to find.


                With our group project, creating a visual form for the short story by Hemingway, “The Big Two Hearted River,” the possible uses for the TAPoR made themselves very clear right from the start. To even start creating some kind of visual form of a text you have to understand what is happening, when it is happening, and how it is happening. The TAPoR allowed us to quickly and easily analyze and search through these two short stories and come up with a very clear idea of what kinds of words were being used when, with that information we could then go back to the texts and see what was happening to the main character what was going on with the setting or the action and come to a conclusion about the meaning of those words at that specific time and place.


                With all that said, there are limitations to this program in terms of our project. We can create graphs and maps that show us where certain words appear and how often, but what this program does not do is create that concrete visual representation of the work itself. I suppose some could argue that some of the tools do represent the work in some form or another, and in a way I suppose they do. These tools can create something of a model of the story, a model in graphs and charts and raining words. What this program cannot do is create that concrete visual pictorial experience that our project requires. To accomplish that we as a group have to go to the text and create that landscape using our own interpretive techniques. 


                As far as some of the other less conventional tools that the TAPoR offers, I believe that they also serve a purpose. The TAPoR and the institutions and groups that support are after new ways to understand and interpret texts that we have possibly been studying for years, hundreds of years even, so there has to be, with all this new technology, a way to bring new light to these texts. That isn’t to say that these tools will necessarily unveil some kind of secret hidden meaning behind some of literatures greatest works. All it is saying is that there might be different ways, visual, technological or other, to view these texts.



     Citations for further study


    Scratch. 15 May 2007. Lifelong Kindergarten Group. 12 February 2008 <http://scratch.mit.edu/> 

    Words Eye. Semantic Light LLC. 9 February 2008 <http://www.wordseye.com/frontpage>.

    Moretti, Franco. Graphs Maps Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History. New York: Verso, 2007.












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