I’ve once again fallen way behind in my blogging, but fortunately I have much to report. I’m writing from Digital Humanities 2010, where I’ll be presenting my latest research on Saturday. The conference is in London and it’s been exciting and a little befuddling to wrestle jet-lag amidst an exciting array of panels and posters.
The paper I’m giving is on Toni Morrison, the subject of the recently completed Chapter 2. It’s in its fourth iteration now, after a trial run among the friendly brains at Stanford and great panels at ASU’s Southwest English Grad Students conference and ACLA. At each point I’ve been refining my methodologies and slides (lesson one: visualization is endlessly finicky).
As before, this is a case study where Morrison’s work is really a jumping-off point for an exploration of her reading publics and the nature of literary fame. When I presented at DH2009, I was still working out how to approach these questions and adopted a kind of shotgun strategy, using every data set and methodology I could think of to see what worked. That paper, on Thomas Pynchon, had a lot going on: networks of Amazon recommendations; Wordle images based on word counts of book reviews; bar graphs of library copies; graphs of MLA citations and comparisons of MLA, Amazon and newsgroup publications by year.
Most of these ideas were interesting, but only some of them ‘stuck’ for me. The cyclical nature of academic and other kinds of publication, for example, was revealing to see but a point that probably only needs to be proven once. This year I’ve decided to focus on the richest results from the past and push the envelope. My paper will look at the social lives of Morrison’s novels, and the ‘social’ networks they inhabit online. I’ve worked hard in the past year to create collocation-based networks and to use network analysis to identify the most significant nodes and clusters in Morrison’s ideational networks online. These are the most interesting, and the messiest, of my datasets, and network analysis has revealed some surprising patterns that I’ll be sharing on Saturday.
So that’s the major news. I have a couple of other projects cooking that I’m going to write up when I have some solid bulletins to report.