Spatial Analysis

“Networks are made of vertices and edges; plot networks, of characters and verbal exchanges. In plays this works well, because words are deeds, deeds are almost always
words, and so, basically, a network of speech acts is a network of actions. In novels, no,
because much of what characters do and say is not uttered, but narrated, and direct discourse covers only a part of the plot – at times, a very small part.”
It took me a while to understand this passage’s meaning but here’s what I got from it.
What we’ve been working with has been the physical material of literature. Things such as word counts and paragraph spacing. With spatial analysis, we instead analyze the narratives inside the text. Instead of counting words on a page, we count words shared between characters. For example, character A could have 43 words shared with character B and character B could have 72 words said between them and character C. Not only words but character actions are taken into account too. Instead of how many words character A told to character B, how many interactions in general did character A have with B?
This is closer to the humanities side of analysis because we are going into the narrative, but we are not analyzing meanings. Even as I type this out it seems very confusing, but I hope I’m understanding this correctly. The digital strategies such as counting and indexing is applied to the elements in the text instead of the words and paragraphs that the text is made up of. So we’ve gone from the physical material analysis to the internal material of the story but only the surface of the words and the not the meaning behind them.
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5 thoughts on “Spatial Analysis

  1. I also found this a bit confusing to translate, but I feel you explained it very well. Your quote was from section 5 about Symmetry and your explanation helped a lot in clearing up some of my confusion. Your example with characters A,B, and C I felt helped tie section 5 back to section 1 about Character networks. You mentioned now with spatial analysis we are digging a bit deeper and I agree. I feel this quote about maximizing visibility and minimizing overlap shows that the understanding we share isn’t completely off track.

    “But, I just couldn’t find a non-clumsy way to visualize weight and direction; and as a consequence, the networks in this study were all made by hand, with the very simple aim of maximizing visibility by minimizing overlap.”

    • I think that it is interesting that Bethany talked about the ways in which the author is stripping down a piece of literature to the characters’ dialogue and interactions. I like that she mentioned the ways that this incorporates digital humanities in analyzing the work through counting or indexing. I think that this is interesting when compared to the Voyant tools that we have been using since this is another way of visually analyzing a work.
      I like the quote that rlh002 used about “maximizing visibility by minimizing overlap.” The way that the author talks about this is interesting, since this is a problem that I can see occurring when condensing information in this way. I think that it and what Bethany discussed relate to what he says in the epilogue: “[F]rom its very first section, the essay drifted from quantification to the qualitative analysis of plot: the advantage of thinking in terms of space rather than time; its segmentation into regions, instead of episodes; the new, non-anthropomorphic idea of the protagonist; or, even, the “undoing” of narrative structures occasioned by the removal of specific vertices in the network.”

  2. Referring to the first half of the seventh chapter of The Story of the Stone, Moretti says: “Nothing major happens here: people talk, walk around, play go, gossip… No interaction
    is crucial in itself. But taken together, they perform an essential reconnaissance function:
    they make sure that the nodes in this region are still communicating: because, with
    hundreds of characters, the disaggregation of the network is always a possibility.”

    As a benefit to creating the networks by hand, we’re able to see not only where the network goes but how each node checks to see if other nodes are still communicating. This indeed doesn’t tell us the meaning behind the interactions, but it does show some things about them. Each interaction has an impact on the network as a whole, so we can see the impact of interactions, but not necessarily the “meaning” behind them. Not only are we counting and indexing elements of the text, but we’re able to track how the interactions manipulate the network.

  3. One thing about that quote that I think you missed is the reason for using discourse between characters to create the character networks. The author says that in plays, “words are deeds, deeds are almost always words,” so discourse between characters usually means they interacted with each other. However, in novels, “much of what characters do and say is not uttered, but narrated,” and so discourse between characters no longer signifies a major portion of the plot.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that using discourse between characters isn’t the only way to create these graphs. For example, ” the authors of a previous paper on Shakespeare had linked characters if they had speaking parts during the same scene, even if they did not address each other.” Each method creates a different graph, and each graph gives a different view of the structure of the story as a whole.

  4. I think that you have grasped the basic concept behind spatial analysis. It allows you to see patterns in a play or other work that is not just made up of quantitative data. However, I find it especially interesting that this form of analysis also has a problem with reducing the meaning of the work just like quantitative visualization. Franco Morretti comments on this stating, “Third consequence of this approach: once you make a network of a play, you stop working
    on the play proper, and work on a model instead: you reduce the text to characters and interactions, abstract them from everything else, and this process of reduction and abstraction makes the model obviously much less than the original object.” While this method allows the reader to grasp possibly hidden or hard to see connections in a play or other work it also loses some of the content of the original work.

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