This week’s readings focused on textual analysis. Textual analysis is one digital methodology with which I was familiar prior to this course, although I’ve never actually tried it. Although it certainly used to look quite complicated (and intimidating), after our command line boot camp and taking some time to understand exactly how it is that a computer, and by extension software, operates, the textual analysis process appears much simpler. Particularly the use of tokens and strings though which the analysis is focused is much clearer and I hope that understanding will help me actually utilize textual analysis more effectively. Contrary to popular belief, computers aren’t actually sentient machines that function on a higher level than humans (at least not yet…but 2029 isn’t far off).
One thing that struck me about the technique is its double-edged nature. On one hand, it is incredibly useful for helping to visualize or understand general trends that have lots of data to sort through. Many hypotheses are constructed primarily around a relatively small amount of data that the scholar actually has the time and physical capacity to read, meaning that a textual analysis of the remaining huge corpus of text/source material can be incredibly useful to verifying the general accuracy of a hypothesis. I know I would love to be able to be able to refer to general trends in the data that I’m unable to actually physically sift through to check whether or not my research is going the way I believe it ought to be. However, on the other hand, doing a textual analysis would be utterly useless without a strong knowledge of what ought to be in the text and a mastery of the technology used in the process. Without that requisite knowledge, you’ll mostly likely end up with a bunch of unintelligible data.
With that being said, I like to think that my project is moving forward, although the past week hasn’t been quite as productive as I would have liked. I’m still fleshing out the details of my project and I’m still waiting for my meeting with the two librarians, which I’ll hopefully be able to take care of by the end of this week. After that and with any luck, I’ll be off to the proverbial races!