A Big Year

2010! Where is my jetpack?

It’s been a busy year so far, and I’m hoping to keep up with this new, futuristic energy. After a bit of a slow autumn (we use the term metaphorically here in Phoenix) and the usual distraction of the holidays, I finally got to check a few major items off my list this week. Yesterday I completed a funding application for the Stanford Humanities Center–they offer a few dissertation fellowships each year. Today I finally–FINALLY–finished revising a paper submission based on my Pynchon chapter and sent it back for round two.

Now it’s time to buckle down and return to data analysis. I’ve assembled a great pile of book reviews and recommendations in a MySQL database, and I have a few discrete challenges ahead of me:

First, I need to come up with an effective way to identify and then tag proper nouns in book reviews. This is easy to do badly and then clean up by hand, which is what I did for the last chapter. But there are a lot of Morrison reviews out there, so now I really need a computer for this. As a first pass/proof of concept I’m hand-editing a little “dictionary” of all the proper noun literary references made in professional reviews of Morrison’s work. Then I’ll write some kind of program to search for and tag those references in the reviews.

Once I get that figured out, the second trial process is going to be creating network graphs of these literary references based on collocations. I think I’ll probably start by defining links as “in the same paragraph,” but this might change depending on how useful the graphs end up being.

If I can get all this working in the next week or two, hopefully I will get some kind of epiphany for how to do automate the process elegantly for a much larger, and badly proof-read, set of consumer reviews of Morrison. It’s 2010…where is my artificial intelligence research assistant?