June 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
Too long for Twitter, a pointer to a new article:
- Bamman, David, Ted Underwood, and Noah A. Smith, “A Bayesian Mixed Effects Model of Literary Character” Proceedings of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (2014): 370-79.
NB. The link here is to a synopsis of the work and related info; you’ll want the authors’ PDF for details.
The new work is related to Bamman, O’Connor, and Smith’s “Learning Latent Personas of Film Characters” (ACL 2013; PDF), which modeled character types in Wikipedia film summaries. I mention the new piece here mostly because it’s cool, but also because it addresses the biggest issue that came up in my grad seminar when we discussed the film personas work, namely the confounding influence of plot summaries. Isn’t it the case, my students wanted to know, that what you might be finding in the Wikipedia data is a set of conventions about describing and summarizing films, rather than (or, much more likely, in addition to) something about film characterization proper? And, given that Wikipedia has pretty strong gender/race/class/age/nationality/etc./etc./etc. biases in its authorship, doesn’t that limit what you can infer about the underlying film narratives? Wouldn’t you, in short, really rather work with the films themselves (whether as scripts or, in some ideal world, as full media objects)?
The new paper is an important step in that direction. It’s based on a corpus of 15,000+ eighteenth- and nineteenth-century novels (via the HathiTrust corpus), from which the authors have inferred arbitrary numbers of character types (what they call “personas”). For details of the (very elegant and generalizable) method, see the paper. Note in particular that they’ve modeled author identity as an explicit parameter and that it would be relatively easy to do the same thing with date of publication, author nationality, gender, narrative point of view, and so on.
The new paper finds that the author-effects model — as expected — performs especially well in discriminating character types within a single author’s works, though less well than the older method (which doesn’t control for author effects) in discriminating characters between authors. Neither method does especially well on the most difficult cases, differentiating similar character types in historically divergent texts.
Anyway, nifty work with a lot of promise for future development.
March 13, 2014 § Leave a comment
From the Digital Americanists site, which has full details:
Visualizing Non-Linearity: Faulkner and the Challenges of Narrative Mapping
Session 1-A. Thursday, May 22, 2014, 9:00 – 10:20 am
- Julie Napolin, The New School
- Worthy Martin, University of Virginia
- Johannes Burgers, Queensborough Community College
Digital Flânerie and Americans in Paris
Session 2-A. Thursday, May 22, 2014, 10:30-11:50 am
- “Mapping Movement, or, Walking with Hemingway,” Laura McGrath, Michigan State University
- “Parisian Remainder,” Steven Ambrose, Michigan State University
- “Sedentary City,” Anna Green, Michigan State University
- “Locating The Imaginary: Literary Mapping and Propositional Space,” Sarah Panuska, Michigan State University
February 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m giving a talk at the University of Chicago Digital Humanities Forum in a couple of weeks. Details at that link and reproduced here. Looking forward to the event and hope to see some of the many cool DH folks in Chicago there.
Date: March 7, 2014
Location: Regenstein Library 122
Time: 12:00-2:00 pm
Abstract: Scholars have long understood that there is a close relationship between literary production and the large-scale cultural contexts in which books are written. But it’s difficult to pin down the many ways in which this relationship might work, especially once we expand our interest from individual texts to systems of production and reception. In this talk, Wilkens offers a computationally assisted analysis of changes in geographic usage within more than a thousand works of nineteenth-century American fiction, arguing that literary-spatial attention around the Civil War was at once more diverse and more stable than has been previously shown. He examines correlations between literary attention and changes in demographic factors that offer preliminary insights into the driving forces behind a range of shifts in literary output. Wilkens also discusses the future of the project, which will soon expand to include millions of books from the early modern period to the present day.
January 27, 2014 § Leave a comment
The syllabus for my current digital humanities grad seminar is now available. It’ll evolve a bit over the semester, mostly by gaining specific exercises and answers.
I tried to take my own advice from the last time I taught the class as I put together this version; there’s more (and more formal) programming and machine learning, different treatments of the intro to DH and of visualization, more GIS, and (much) less media studies. But if you think there are things I’ve missed, I’d me curious to know. Or, well, I know there are a lot of things I’ve been forced to leave out. Since time remains stubbornly finite, if you think something should be added, what might be cut to make room for it?
January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
A call for papers or panel proposals for the Digital Americanists session at the American Literature Association 2014 conference (Washington, DC, May 22-25, 2014) is available on the DA site. We’re hoping for great stuff; if you’re working on something interesting, check the CFP and drop us a line soon – the deadline in January 21!