Workshop: “Seeing Through Your Text with Voyant: Low Barrier Text Analysis in the Classroom”

**Workshop sign up coming soon**

Summary 

On Saturday, December 4, the Ohio Five CODEX team hosted a workshop titled “Seeing Through Your Text with Voyant: Low Barrier Text Analysis in the Classroom.” As one of the main presenters, I can tell you without any bias that this was the best workshop that has ever been done in the Ohio 5. 🙂 All joking aside, most of the faculty participating in the workshop left pondering how they can use this digital tool to have students conduct distance reading on their texts. In this blog post, I’m recapping some highlights of the workshop along with providing some resources we shared.

Format

We called this a hybrid workshop that involved having each of the institutions host their participants in a satellite location while engaging with the presenters and other participants on a Zoom. This meant that all Denison faculty participants were in the large CfLT conference room, which was equipped with a webcam and snowball microphone, and could see their colleagues at other institutions in the Zoom projected on the screen. The reason behind this was a bit complicated. First, organizers wanted to make sure this workshop was accessible for all faculty at the five universities and colleges without long drives or worries about COVID protocols outside their own institutions. Second, we wanted to have a community feel that cannot be experienced when everyone is just on a Zoom call itself. Having satellite locations, allowed for faculty members to still gather in person, and to also have the ability to experience the workshop across all the locations. I could spend paragraphs expanding on the format and technology involved, but this was the basic idea.

Content

During the workshop, I participated as a demonstrator on how to actually use Voyant tools. I did a general overview of the interface and what all the different visualizations and other features can do with a text. The workshop was always intended to be a very basic level demonstration and experimentation with the tool, and I do believe that we stuck to that intent. There was also time to allow faculty members to talk about their experiences using Voyant “in the wild,” meaning using it in their actual classes. I believe this part was invaluable to faculty participants, who could hear firsthand experiences discussing what works and what doesn’t work so well when teaching with this tool. At the end, there was time allocated for small group discussions on how faculty members might want to structure assignments or build distant reading/computational textual analysis into their courses. In the Denison room, everyone stayed in a larger group and could hear from those with experience teaching with Voyant already. 

Feedback

Thus far, we have heard positive feedback on the workshop itself. Many said more examples of projects would be great, and that is something I am working on gathering for any future workshops on this topic. The feedback has indicated that there is also interest in having a more advanced workshop on computational textual analysis in the future, which could be something the Ohio 5 CODEX team hosts again, or something we can host at Denison.

Next Workshop (SIGN UP!)

I’m proud to say that Denison faculty showed the most interest of all the five colleges, and had the most attendees on the day of the workshop. ETS has also heard from several faculty members at Denison who wanted to attend but just could not make the day/time the session was offered. The great news is that ETS plans to offer this workshop again in January before the start of classes. Right now we are looking at the morning of January 12, but we keep an eye out for further details about the workshop and how to sign up coming soon.

Resources

If you search “Voyant Demo” in YouTube, you will get a LOT of results (trust me, I watched hours of videos when preparing). Below are some resources that have been culled by presenters and hosts, so that you do not need to go search for “Voyant Demo” yourself.

Tutorials and Demos

Contexts and Ideas

Datasets

  • DH Toy Chest: Data Collections and Datasets – This is a really big list, often a list of lists. But it has a great deal of humanities data that digital humanists (or anyone) can use, including textual and visual data.
    Project Gutenberg – A collection of out of copyright (that is, available to use without breaking the law) book text. You will be most interested in the HTML files or the .TXT files, most likely. You could curate your own set of texts to work with: a given author, a given time period, a given region, etc.
  • OPENN – Digitized collections from the University of Pennsylvania’s libraries. These are very rich with metadata (data about the datasets themselves): authors, dates, size of the image… lots of information.
  • Digital Public Library of America – Millions of images and metadata that are available to use. They even have a “developers” page with sample code that you might use. Click through to see how you might use DPLA in a project.

Questions & Support

If you are considering a project involving computational text analysis, please reach out to ETS or your department EdTech for support. We are happy to have a consultation or brainstorming session to help with developing ideas, course design, or using the technology in class. ETS can be reached at ets@denison.edu.