Distant-Reading: The Crisis. Alex Wade, Stacey Johnston, Jesse Haynes

In The Crisis magazine, we used Voyant to create the info visualizations that our group used to better understand the content of the magazine as a whole, similar to how the Voyant tools helped with The New Freewoman. For example, our group looked at the graph of frequency for the word “Negro,” and then compared it to the same graph for the word “black.” After studying that, we also threw the terms “colored” and “white” into the mix, and this is the conclusion we reached: “black” was not a term that was used very frequently through the duration of the magazine (although usage frequency increased towards the end), but the usage of “negro” and “colored” were very closely related (neither of the terms were used much in issue 7), and “white” was most frequently used in issue 6, 7, and the graph followed a somewhat inverse track when compared with the other three. The following are images of the graphs we used, and be sure to note the Y -axis on each to prevent being mislead by the data. Simply click on them to view them in high resolution.

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When reducing The Crisis to graphical primitives, the major concept that is lost is the contextual arguments or associations attached to the terms. In order to have an understanding for how the terms are used, one must look for the individual citations of the term and then read the surrounding parts of the passage in order to have a feel for the way the term is being applied to the argument. For example, the term “negro” is used in a number of ways: a collective expression, a satirical name, with prideful connotation, etc. If one were to only view the graph for the term “negro,” then that person’s view of the term’s usage might be slightly skewed because the graph takes away the ability of the word to specialize individualistically. The way the words are used, along with their frequency, is very important to the magazines’ arguments. However, only the frequency can be observed easily while looking at word trends, so that is lost. What is gained is the ability to look at word frequency throughout a magazine and holistically theorize based on the graphs Voyager built (and also the Words in Entire Corpus Widget is useful for this too).

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