Distant Reading

Today we learned about distant reading.  Well, we’d learned about it before – but today we learned a lot more.  I’ve been thinking about how I use this potentially powerful tool.  In the project I proposed – to follow the movements of Delta sharecroppers – I’m not sure how to employ this technique.  That’s not to say that tomorrow won’t bring some new insight.

But I can see this as useful in some of my other research.  One of the projects mentioned last week was about using deep reading/data mining to examine when “World War I” replaced “the Great War” in newspaper writing.  I write about milk, and I am interested in the ways people have defined and regulated dairy products.  It might be useful to look at things like “certified milk” and “pasteurized milk” and, for that matter, “grade A milk” to see when those phrases entered our lexicon.  Just a thought.  This all really hasn’t had time to settle in yet, and I’m a person who needs to cogitate.


Update – decided I was here to work with this stuff, so I did.  Here’s one thing I found:

I knew about the growth of both certified and pasteurized milk circa 1900.  I didn’t realize that (writing about) certified milk dropped off that sharply that much sooner.  Hmm…

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