NABOKV-L post 0007177, Thu, 28 Nov 2002 13:10:41 -0800

Fw: Visual net spins literary web
EDNOTE. Thanks to Nick Grundy for this item. The program described looks as
if it might be very useful for textual analysis. I would be interested in
hearing from any one who has used it.

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To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
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> Not strictly on-topic, but it strikes me that this would produce
interesting results...
> A website that puts a new spin on thousands of literary classics has been
created by an American designer.
> is an interactive program that reproduces the text of more
than 2,000 books as works of art.
> The software converts the text into an interactive map that allows viewers
to quickly see relationships between words and characters at a glance, even
without having read the book.
> "It is a piece of art" said the founder of the site, W Bradford Paley, a
designer for Digital Image Design Incorporated in New York.
> "But I originally built it to be a text analysis tool," he told the BBC
programme Go Digital.
> Word spirals
> The texts, which range from Shakespearean classics like Hamlet to Lewis
Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, are supplied by Project
Gutenberg, a free online library.
> Once a book has been chosen, the program reprints the text line by line,
in a wide oval around the screen.
> The text is almost unreadable but shows the viewer the typographic
structure of the book. A second, concentric ellipse then appears inside the
first with the text in a more readable font.
> Inside the spirals more words appear. Words that occur more than once are
distributed inside the ellipses in their average position.
> The brighter the word the more frequently it occurs and the more important
it is to the story.
> Rolling your mouse over a word creates lines that link it to every
occurrence in the elliptical text.
> For example Alice glows at the centre of a map of Carroll's work. She is
attached to the inner ellipse by hundreds of lines, showing the viewer that
she appears throughout the book.
> In contrast, scrolling over Gryphon or Mock Turtle shows fewer links to
just the chapters where they appear, and their position on the periphery
shows they do not occur through out the book.
> "It's as if I wrote the word once and attached it by rubber bands to the
places it should be in the story" explained Mr Paley.
> "Alice is attached to every where she appears, so the rubber bands have an
equal tug of war".
> The resulting picture resembles a map of star constellations but with
words replacing celestial bodies.
> The patterns at the centre of the concentric ovals reveal significant
themes, characters and their positions in the books.
> Visual index
> is designed as a tool for academics or for people that need to
filter a text quickly.
> For example lawyers could use the system to search long documents for
specific words or characters.
> But Mr Paley believes his maps are not a substitute for the original
> "This is just a visual index," he said. "I still want you to go back to
the real work".