Voyant Visualization Tools

By Ray Wagner


For this project, our Digital Humanities class used several tools provided by the online resource Voyant. More specifically, we used the tools that create visual representations of various aspects of the works we chose to analyze. These tools include cirrus, a ‘cloud’ of the most frequently used words with the most frequent words being larger; bubblelines, a graph showing word frequency throughout the text; textarc, a tool used to show the distribution of words, and their connection to other words; as well as many others. For this post I will be focusing on trends. This visualization tool provides a line graph of word frequency throughout sections of the text.

Example A
A classmate, Megan, chose to analyze the collection of short stories Dubliners by James Joyce. They then chose several prevalent themes throughout the stories to view.


(Image courtesy of Megan Valentine)

As you can see, trends allowed them to see the amount of times certain words appeared in each of the 15 stories.
Example B
Not only can Voyant be used for singular works of text, it can also be used to view an entire collection of works. Another classmate chose to view the entirety of Jane Austen’s works. They compared the frequency of marriage and friendship.


(Image courtesy of Mary Mackoy)

The graph shows the relationship between the two words, and their prevalence in Austen’s novels.  When discussing the relationship between the two words, Mary said, “Both Emma and Mansfield Park are about friends who fall in love and the trend graph shows how closely the terms are related.” 


Visualization tools can be used to both analyze intent and ask questions. Readers can see the use of words throughout a text and can determine the relevancy/importance of those words based on their own personal interpretations of the work. This can also allow for readers to ask questions based on their findings. The heavy use of specific abstracts or nouns, certain character names, or locations in specific parts of the text could all be things that could alter a reader’s interpretation of their text. Another possible use of visualization tools is the analyzation of possible intentional correlation. In a trend graph especially, it is possible to notice words that seem to be used in response to one another. For further research, the text could be put into R and a correlation test could be used.


The online tool Voyant is extremely versatile and provides many options besides those previously listed. Texts can be uploaded via URL, or a file formatted in plain text, HTML, XML, PDF, RTF, or MS Word can be opened. A user also has the option of simply pasting the entirety of their text into the initial text box shown on Voyant’s homepage. After that, the user simply has to select what tool they wish to see via a button in the upper right of each tools window. Then the reader simply has to analyze and ask!
(For a more in-depth how-to of Voyant, visit the post on Colocation with Voyant)


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