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Web Wednesday: Digital Humanities [10/5]

Prewriting: Tweet what you think are the three most important words in your chosen short story (I’ll also use this for attendance).

1) Hybrid Part: Create a “Wordle” of your chosen short story. Visit, paste the contents of your short story into the program, and play with the font, layout, colors, or size until you’re happy.  Save your Wordle (depending on your computer setup, you can try to take a screen grab or “print” as a pdf that you can save/convert to a jpg). Here’s a short help paragraph on that:

Upload your Wordle to your blog and tweet the link to everyone. Go ahead and upload it to the Digital Humanities page you’ve created for the next assignment. Check out and comment on your peers’ Wordles. If you have extra time, take a moment to read this Wiki article on tag clouds: .

2) Literary Studies Part: Look at your Wordle and consider the largest words that appeared. In the comments box below, write a few sentences reflecting on what your Wordle shows you. Did any of the words match the ones you tweeted earlier? Were you surprised by any of the words that appeared? What is the difference between “most important” and “most prominent”?

Consider the connotations and denotations of the words that came from your Wordle tag cloud. Start making a list (in your notes) of synonyms and other related words for the Wordle words you found. You’re gathering data for the next part.

3) Hybrid Part II: Go to Google’s Ngram Viewer and run searches on the data there using the word list you just created: You can narrow your search to the time period around your story’s publication (maybe a few decades on either side?).

4) Writing Park:  In the comments below, write a few sentences reflecting on any surprising, interesting, or unique results you found in your Ngram Search.

5) Homework: Post a one paragraph reflection of today’s Web Wednesday on your blog arguing whether or not Wordle and Ngram are useful Digital Humanities tools. Are they just new ways of doing old things? Or new things entirely? Consider this freewriting/brainstorming for your upcoming second assignment.

Posted in Web Wednesday.

62 Responses

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  1. mikadroz says

    Quick question– does the word have to appear in the story? Racism is a major theme in mine, but only in hindsight and not when it was written. I could use ‘savages’ if ‘racism’ won’t work, though.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Good question–Wordle is just processing data, not giving interpretation. So if the word’s not in the story, it’s not going to appear in the Wordle! Try running both words (and synonyms) through Ngram to see what happens.

  2. APMimz says

    In my wordle, none of the words I chose are observed. I am not surprised as the wordle took names specifically and made those the major theme; which would make sense because the characters are very important and prominent and they are the reason of the book.
    Giovenelli is smaller than both Daisy and Winterbourne because he is one of the less familiar characters, albeit important. Winterbourne is a very dominant figure in this story, as the story has a very controversial story line.

  3. mchan says

    I’m surprised my wordle mainly came up with character names and a lot of verbs and actions. I had only guessed one word correctly “honey,” but it wasn’t as prominent in the wordle cloud. While the cloud shows the words that came up most frequently, it doesn’t really say much regarding the plot of the story and what happens or concepts that are important to it. In this sense, just because words are prominent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most important or crucial words that move the story.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      I wonder if any literary theorists would argue with you about this sentence: “just because words are prominent, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the most important or crucial words that move the story.” Isn’t repetition one way to stress importance?

  4. sasha says

    When I chose my most important words, I didn’t really think to choose the words that appeared the most, which the Wordle does. I chose the words that meant the most to me in the story… I think one of the larger words in the Wordle, “photograph” can work as most important in both ways, in that it appears often, and it has a lot of meaning to the story. I almost chose it as one of the three words to tweet, but I chose Bohemia over it. That ended up as one of the smaller words, but it’s still important to the story.
    In the Wordle, “Holmes” shows up often. I think that the Sherlock Holmes stories are very character driven, seeing that they’re often crime stories. Holmes is such a famous character that he’s an important cultural figure. His name is the largest word, and that’s ok, because he’s the most important character, and he drives the story. His name, as “photograph” is prominent, as it shows up often, and important, as it has a lot of meaning to the story.
    I liked looking at the Wordle and picking it apart, and then reattaching the words in my head to make out the story. I think you can tell what’s going on in the story pretty well from the Wordle. Is that a sign of good writing? Maybe since the characters show up a lot in the Wordle it’s a sign of a character-driven story.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “reattaching the words in my head to make out the story” : or maybe reattaching them is what Forster would call “the plot”? Giving the words a motive or cause?

  5. egallone24 says

    Between my Twitter post of the three important words and my wordle, only one of the words were similar. That word is “know”. Basic knowledge is very important and a huge part of the situation in this short story. If Connie had more common sense and more knowledge of the sick-minded people in the world surrounding her, this issue could have been prevented. What you know in life can help make life that much easier and less stressful.

  6. mikadroz says

    None of the words I picked as most important (war, savages, friend) appeared as the largest in my Wordle. The largest were Indians, Dale, men, one, and canoe. I was a little surprised that war (or even ‘fight’) didn’t show up as much as I expected, but the fact that the most prominent words were what they were wasn’t quite as surprising. I expected to see ‘Dale’ (he’s a character who gets mentioned quite a bit), and Indians, but I think it bears mentioning that the word ‘white’ is very small. The story emphasizes the ‘strangeness’ of the Native Americans but the white characters don’t have nearly as much (or any) focus on their race.

    I don’t think a word has to be prominent to be important. After all, this is a story about a battle and none of those words appear often. ‘Fight’ and ‘death’ barely appear at all, and I couldn’t even find ‘friend’ in the Wordle, though that is a theme in the story. Something doesn’t have to be constantly repeated to be considered a theme.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “Something doesn’t have to be constantly repeated”– in fact, it might be that the opposite is true. If the story emphasizes the strangeness of others, it wouldn’t also go out of it’s way to mention the “whiteness” of some characters–calling attention to it would make them strange to.

      • mikadroz says

        Especially in a story that comes from a time when this was perfectly acceptable behavior. I just did some Googling and found that my story is actually based on a real event and the characters were real people. While the story is clearly a fictionalized account it’s very interesting to see that this really was considered acceptable at the time.

        • Kevin L. Ferguson says

          Yes–Ngram especially would tell you a lot about how race-related language changes over time, as offensive words drop out of use and new words appear to replace them.

  7. seslami says

    In my wordle, none of the words I chose earlier appeared. The largest words that appear in my wordle are: mother, must, protected, fury, ashamed, feeling. I would say that these words are also pretty important regarding to the plot of my story. They are not the most prominent however because these words are mainly only in the climax of the story, not in the whole story.

  8. lindsayc says

    The words that are most prominent in my wordle are rose, nightingale, red, cried, tree, thorn. This didn’t surprise me and were apart of my original list. I think it was obvious for my short story because it is kind of like a fable. So, it is repetitive of the key words/points. The difference between most important and most prominent is quality and quantity. The importance of a word is the quality or significance of the word. And the prominence is the quantity or how many times it may have appeared in the story.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Remember this comment when we read what Freud says about how dreams work…

  9. Jessica Danielle Powell says

    All of the words I chose earlier were in my wordle. The word “Free” was the largest word out of the three. This really does show me that even the little things matter to help paint a big story. I was surprised at some of the words that popped up but what was so amazing was that the words that I thought were not important were lined inside or on the side of the words that I thought were important. Each word Prominent or not work together to recreate “The Story of an Hour”. [Although my wordle could be titled “The Story of an Hour made in 60 Seconds” :-) lol this made me laugh]

    • Jessica Danielle Powell says

      The size isn’t what counts its quality over quantity. I can have loads of cheap concealer but some Mac concealer would last longer and have a better finish. [Random Comparison]

  10. clo120 says

    Amontillado and Fortunato appeared prominently as I guessed, but punish came up very small in comparison. Other prominent words included “ugh” and “friend.” These are very important words to consider due to the nature of the story itself. Even though Montressor is leading Fortunato to his demise, he does so while referring to him as his friend in order to get him to drop his guard. Friend is therefore a very important word as a result. The prominence of a word does not mean that it is more important necessarily. In fact, sometimes words that are used over and over again become less meaningful.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “In fact, sometimes words that are used over and over again become less meaningful”: That’s a much better way of saying what I replied to Michelle D.

  11. andycrazn says

    the largest words in my wordle are mostly characters in the story. i dont see law in my wordle but i do see order. same goes for torture, its replaced with execution. the difference between most important and most prominent is that you can have data to show whats prominent like the use of wordle helped show me which words are more prominent than others. i think the importance of things are subjective.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Your story might especially rely on euphemism–and if I remember right the idea of “law” isn’t something named much, because it’s this big mysterious thing that’s everywhere.

  12. jtrezza says

    Earlier I tweeted the words “beetle”, “treasure” and “gold”, all of which appear on my Wordle. The Gold-Bug as a whole is one of those stories where the words that express the themes of the prose are also explicitly used in the text itself. This is why they appear in the Wordle.
    As for the size and prominence of the words that appear, “de”, “Jupiter, “Legrand” and “bug” are among the largest. “De” is the accented version of “the” spoken by Jupiter, who is the main character’s slave. Poe’s decision to express Jupiter’s dialogue in a fittingly authentic accent is the reason the word appears so often in the text, and the reason it appears so large in the wordle.
    The words that I tweeted earlier are not the largest words in the wordle, but they probably are the most prominent. This is much like how they are used in the text. The word “treasure” is used in the text, but it is obviously not the word most used. It is however, an important theme. It’s appropriate, I feel, how the word “treasure” appears in the wordle, that is, large but not too large. It is a good size, good enough in the way that it fits in nicely and cohesively with the other words while not appearing so small as to go unnoticeable. The same can be said for “beetle” and “gold”.

  13. jtrezza says

    Forgot to mention that Legrand is the main character in question in paragraph 2 of my comment.

  14. seslami says

    A surprising thing I discovered in the google ngram, is that the word “ashamed” has decreased significantly compared to the 1800s where it was quite popular. The word “fury” decreased even more compared to the 1800s. The word “protected” however has increased since the 1800s. The word “mother” somewhat stayed the same throughout the years though. Pretty interesting device!

  15. Breana says

    The most prominent words in my wordle are heart and my aunt. Those are words that are very important in my story and have meaning. I am surprised that they picked those words but maybe it is because of the a lot of people create wordles using there words.

  16. mikadroz says

    I found it very interesting that the term ‘Native Americans’ was used next to never during the time before and after this my story was published while ‘Indians’ was used much more often. It wasn’t a surprise, but it still intrigued me. It wasn’t until around the 1970s that ‘Native Americans’ began to make an appearance, which was far later than I’d expected.

    Meanwhile, ‘canoe’ had a dramatic dip from 1890 to 1895, but then it shot up more than double in the next five years. I wonder what the canoe news was during that decade?

  17. Jerry says

    What surprised me was that the variety of stories and books and just everyday knowledge was great. When i searched the time periods of the words i did not see not one of the previous results repeated. It kind of shows how the digi-manities course could be helpful because in the matter of seconds you are able to run a search and educate yourself and make each and every subject relative to you.

  18. egallone24 says

    Its not much of a surprise, but the synonyms of the words from my wordle have been used more in books. The two main words from my wordle were “know” and “looked”. However, in the Google Ngram, the words “knowledge” and “see” were two of the top words used. Knowledge being the synonym of know and see being the synonym of looked. I also searched other words like viewed,saw,noticed,remembered etc., but none were that high on the chart. I think that was more of a surprise. I also searched my name just for humor, but unfortunately, there weren’t many books that had the name “Ernesto” in it.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Oh–I didn’t think of that! We should run a search comparing everyone’s name to see who comes out top . . . Or maybe it’s better to be on the bottom of the graph?

  19. APMimz says

    It seems that the word flirt seems to go up in the years, but not by much. Daisy seems to go up dramatically though, nearly double from the 1900 to now. And the name Winterbourne seems to have dramatically shifted from 1900-1920. The book was published in 1879, so this makes one wonder if there is any meaning to that.

  20. morgan92 says

    After looking at the wordle some of the bigger words that I found were vain, dentist, hollow, burglary, and police. My wordle shows me that it describes a person who is in that situation besides the word dentist. Words like vain and hollow could describe feelings linked to burglary while police is absolutely related to it. I was actually suprised but yes one of the words that I tweeted earlier did appear in the wordle and it was in the center and that word was burglary. The difference between the most important and prominent is that prominent is when something is distinguished while important is something that is significant.

  21. sasha says

    I did searches on “photograph” and “king” separately, so I made different graphs but each graph had several different synonyms of the word that showed up prominently on my Wordle. A Scandal in Bohemia was written in 1891 or so, so I set my graph from 1830 to 1930 to get a clearer graph. “Photograph” was nonexistent until about 1860, and then it rose slightly but steadily from then on. “King” was on a bit of a steady decline since the beginning of the graph. Were monarchies ending? And the photograph was invented around 1850, right? The graphs opened the windows to a lot more research. It was interesting.

  22. femi says

    Earlier I tweeted auctioneer,profit, and east river. My wordle focused on words like frenchman, farmer and de. The only common word that was consistent in both assignments was auctioneer. The largest word in the wordle didn’t give me an accurate depiction of the short story. The prominent words in the wordle were the words that were most noticeable. The most important words faded to the background and these words are needed to sum up the the short story.

  23. andycrazn says

    the use of traveler hit its low back in the 1800s and hit its highs in 1920 around the time in the penal colony was published. then it started declining. mover and wanderer had a steady decline over the years.

  24. clo120 says

    Justice was the most common of my terms that I entered into the search. Vengeance was a distant second, with the other words I used representing the minority. I imagine that justice rated so high due to the nature that many stories have a need or cry for a just end to whatever plot devices set the story in motion. In fact, most of the books I have read in my life tend to at least partly on focus on a protagonist’s search for this. Sometimes it has even been the antagonist that has the thirst for justice. Vengeance is related to justice, and therefore I understand why that word also came up quite often. It is a common theme that still runs through media today, so I wasn’t particularly surprised at this result.

  25. Jessica Danielle Powell says

    In my NGRAM search I found alot of topical, minority interest, and scientific books. Like for examples some words that I searched were eyes, soul, windows…etc. I got books that talked about the eyes or how to install windows and what kinds of curtains to use. When I used commas to seperate different words for example “door, window” for door I got books titles “The Door”, “_____ Next Door” (I got a lot of these), and “Guarding the Golden Door”. So the topics varied from mystery to immigration. One book I found very interesting was “The Overtown Window”, this talked about terrorists attacks and exposing the people who were behind it. I’ve never used NGRAM search so it was interesting to use…

    • Jessica Danielle Powell says

      I don’t know why … but I put in the time frame I wanted and still got books from the 21st Century

      • Jessica Danielle Powell says

        Oh wait I found that the word Opression was used in books from the 1890’s – 1900’s but when talking about relationships and marriages they were used scarcely. This term was most often used to talk about court cases. Kate Chopin spoke about opression in marriages boldly unlike others during 1890’s-1900’s.

  26. jtrezza says

    Did a Google Ngram search on the words “bug”, “beetle”, “insect”, “scarabeaus”, “spider” and “creepy crawlers”, searching between the years of 1820 and 1860. Poe published the Gold Bug in 1843.
    I figured the word “creepy crawler” would not be found, and to no surprise, it wasn’t. “Scarabeaus” is a latin word having to do with the scientific name of the beetle in question, used sporadically in the text. I thought that since it is used in the text that it was relevant to the way people spoke during the book’s setting, but it showed up on the bottom of the line graph, very close to 0%. “Insect” came in at the highest rate, while “bug” didn’t fare very well.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Maybe the use of the “unusual” word scarabeau is a clue to the text? That is–we might have just thought that that word was common in Poe’s time and has fallen out of use today. But if it doesn’t appear much in the Ngram results, maybe that means it was an uncommon word even for him, and that his use of it was meant to be intentionally obscure?

  27. mchan says

    I searched for the word “bear” and found that there was a very steady and consistent decrease in its usage in books beginning the 1860s-1870s. It was a bit odd that the word was used just as consistently from 1820s to the early 1860s with some variations before then. It makes me wonder why that sudden change came and if the word was used in nonfiction or fiction primarily. Was the word used as “bear” the animal or “bear” to carry or endure?

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      Yeah, there would be no way to tell whether it was a noun or verb . . . that’s definitely one limitation.

  28. Henna says

    “Holmes” is the backbone of this story. His name presents as the underlying roots for the growth that which expands from it, including those details he distinguished as clues to uncover the mysterious death (“bed,” “room,” “light,” etc.) of Julia Stoner. Although these words exist most visaully prominent, that is they appear most often in the text of the story and thus their occurences are most like a stacked ratio to how LARGE these words appear on my Wordle. However, and how appropos in the detective genre, is that it is the most important, that is story-driving — those of the climax and resolution — words that both Holmes had to squint to recognize their importance and meaning, as do we in order to spot them in this mass of word-jumble.

    The one word I would have added to my “words of importance list” on Twitter is “Holmes.” I ask his forgiveness.

  29. khiralal says

    It was interesting to see that Cadillac really took a jump from 1970 onward. Lighters were not surprising as they had a steady charts throughout the years. Other than that, bets were enormous around the 1940’s so I figure people just liked to gamble more after recovering from the Great Depression.

  30. lindsayc says

    I did a search on the words flower, weep, bird, scarlet, and prickle. I was surprised that bird had the most variance but was also significantly higher than the rest. All the words are basically parallel to each other (if parallel lines could be zig zags), one above the other, starting from the very bottom with prickle, ascending all the way to the top with bird.

  31. femi says

    I did a Google Ngram search on the words auctioneer, frenchman, horse, and farmer.
    Frenchman had the highest peak in 1810 and descended from there. auctioneer had the highest peak in 1920. Horse was steady from 1805 to 1860. Farmer had the most oscillations but it peak was in1915. Surprisingly Frenchman wasn’t used frequently in literature during the years that George Pope Morris published his short story.

  32. xiomara capera says

    One of the words that i picked-drowned- was shown as a large word in my wordle; it doesnt surprise me. I think i picked words that i felt were key to the plot of the story like the fact that it takes place in a village and the man in question is thought of as beautiful. In my short story, there’s not much of a difference between most prominent and most important since there is no dialogue and no mentioning of character names aside from one. I do feel the wordle did a pretty amazing job at describing my short story.

  33. P O says

    I chose veil, mystery and fear as my three words. Veil and mystery appeared on my Wordle. A word that stood out in my wordle that I liked was “face.” I chose fear because so many people didn’t like that the reverend wore the veil and they were afraid of him by the end when he confronted them about the veil.

  34. xiomara capera says

    I dont know if im surprised at the Ngram results. The words i searched were overwhelmed, ocean, beautiful, lifeless, affect and imagination between 1940 and 1990. Big surprise beautiful was used the most…not. The word seems to have gone down in popularity as the years went by however. Imagination was also a hit while lifeless and overwhelmed were barely used. I guess words hinting towards negative feelings were avoided.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      “words hinting towards negative feelings were avoided.” : you could test this hypothesis by comparing words that have similar denotations but different connotations.

  35. morgan92 says

    Since this was the first time I used Ngram Search I found it to be a little confusing. As I used it I became a little more comfortable with it and was able to understand the data a little bit better. One of the most interesting and surprising results I found was that the word mention (synonym say) is used much less often today than it was in 1890 through 1905. Also the word human (synonym person) was on a decline between the years 1890 through 1905 and after that it picked up at a rapid pace. The word worried was never used in 1890 through 1900 and then increased very slowly; newspaper increased especially in 1930; and the words breakfast, police and hollow were used quite a bit in that time period and then fluctuated minimally after that

  36. Henna says

    My initial word-search (“detective”) yielded somewhat unsurprising results; that of a steady rise in its usage between the specified years, 1880-1920. Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection of Sherlock Holmes adventures was first published in Strand Magazine (as was much 19th century literature, now available to us in one tremendous cuboidal chunk) in the beginning of the 1890s, so i set the years of my search to reflect that of that time period. I then developed my search in hope of producing an even more striking spike in the usage of “detective” by changing the years setting to 1860-1900. I stuck to the same forty years of “search years” so as not to skew my results. This new length of time searched (1860-1900) was parallel to that of my prior search (1880-1920).

    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins was published, also as a magazine series, in 1868 and is widely believed to be the first novel of the detective genre. Based on this, I expected an abrupt increase in the usage of the word “detective” — not because I think Collins was the first author to handle it, but because I figured it was he who popularized it with The Moonstone. The contrast in chart-increase between the two sets of forty year periods agreed with my theory, blissfully. Further, I expanded the year-brackets to 1800-1900. Results: amazing! Prior to the mid-1850’s, “detective” is virtually below sea level, and from then — now, that’s a trek.

    You gotta check this out:

  37. Henna says

    Also, “Holmes,” obviously peeked around 1890, the time of the collection’s publication, but I was surprised to see how sharply its usage dropped over the following ten years. Apparently, “Sherlock Holmes” is used almost synonymously with the word “detective” (I verified this via to means “investigator of crime.” I guess not all that often, however, as my search for “Holmes” was much of a downer.

    To me, “constable” holds an aged, prehistoric-esque connotation. To Ngram too, as its usage was stable through the late-1800’s, and then began to decline as the chart made its way into the 1990’s and more recently, the 21st century.

  38. Henna says

    I wonder why the huge contrast between “detective” and its proper noun incarnation “Detective.” How odd? The two bump around the same the time, 1850/1860ish (to which I would like to assume Wilkie Collins contributed to), but the rise in usage to follow favors “detective” far more than “Detective.” Wouldn’t one (probably “detective”) have breaded the other? Not equally, sure, but that is a VERY large-scale difference.

    • Kevin L. Ferguson says

      My guess is that there was more writing about an actual (or fictional) Detective characters than detectives in general: more sentences like “Detective Smith found the clue” than like “The detective walked down the hall.”

    • Henna says

      Oh, and “breaded,” obviously = “bred.”

  39. valinirohit says

    My Wordle revealed that the three most prominent words in my short story were Water, Bridge, and Now. Bridge was the only word that matched what I tweeted as the three most important words in my story. I was not surprised by that because the action and setting of the story takes place on a railroad bridge. The word Bridge is also in the title of the story. I was not surprised by the word Water because the author does talk a great deal about the water under the railroad bridge. The difference between “most important” and “most prominent” is that the most prominent words are words like Now that appear a lot in the story but do not reveal a lot about the story. However, the most important words reveal a lot about the story like its setting and characters but may not appear a lot in the story.

  40. valinirohit says

    I decided to do an Ngram search of the three prominent words in my short story which were Water, Bridge, and Now. I chose the year 1821 to begin my search because it was about a generation before the Civil War started in 1861 and I wanted to see how the words changed before and after the Civil War. I chose the year 2008 to end my search because it was the closet the Ngram search would allow me to get to our present year which is the 150 anniversary of the Civil War but also allowed some years to pass some recent pivotal events in American history like the September 11 attacks and the War on Terror. I want to trace how these words changed from the Civil War to our present time but also how they changed during times our nation was in a crisis.

    I was surprised to see a huge gap between Now vs. Water and Bridge but I realized there are a lot more contexts where the word Now could be used compared to the other two words. I was not surprised that Bridge pretty much stayed the same because it can’t be used in many contexts. I was also not surprised that Water steadily increased from 1821 to 1910 because water quality and the availability of water may have been of great concern as population expanded and poverty was published about more as a way of changing it. I was surprised that Water stayed consistent from 1910 to 2008 because I expected more things to be published about the quality and availability of water as population continued to expand and poverty continued to increase.

    I noticed that around the times of war for our nation the word Now increased like during the Civil War and WWII probably because the present was of utmost importance. However, I was surprised that Now decreased during the 1960s and reached its lowest during the 1980s because a cultural revolution was happening in America during the 1960s and the Cold War was going on in the 1980s. As a result, I assume a lot of action was not going on around the world compared to prior decades and decades preceding those time periods. Around the new millennium, 2000, I was not surprised to see Now increase because of the September 11 attacks and the War on Terror which not only impacted America but the whole world.

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