Text Analysis

“How Long is Forever?” Alice asks in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, “Sometimes, just one second” The White Rabbit responds.

The perception of time is relative to the surroundings and events transpiring around the person. With this idea on hand, the idea that time is not just the ticking clock or the cycle of the moon, we can the question how Slave Narratives dealt with time within their writings. Was time or the record of time important to the authors or an unimportant or even forgotten measurement.

To explore the thought we can use visualization of text analysis to show how certain markers of time are represented in a collection of Slave Narratives. We will be looking at four specific markers, “day,” “night,” “morning,” and “time” itself. This will result in a few false-positives such as with the word “sometime” when not discussing a measurement of time, however the false-positives should not overly disqualify the visualization.

The stream graph above highlights the prevalence of the words dictated in each piece. Highlighting for example that Charles Ball’s work deals very heavily with the perception of time in the writing. Whereas George Horton’s piece does not discuss time or its representations nearly at all. However the stream graph does not show how the individual writers use the words throughout the piece. Instead it does a calculation based on how many times it shows up and draws the graph from that information.

To get a better idea of where each other uses the specific word or words within their piece we can use two different tools. The first would be the Bubble Line graph. The Bubble Line graph shows the use of the word or words on a line throughout the piece in question, showing when and how much a specific word is used at what point within the document. It can be broken down into showing each individual word in each piece, to give an even more detailed look at the information.

The last visualization is similar to the Bubble Graph, however it is a quick analytical tool. It shows simply where the word or words show up in a visualization of the length of the piece. It does a decent job showing where a single word is showing up and where. It struggles to show multiple words and with the Ball piece makes it seem like the entire piece is just describing time itself. It would be a far more valuable tool if you could color code each word or separate each word into separate Micro Searches.

With these cursory visualization we can see that time as a thought in Slave Narratives is not evenly distributed between each. Some of the narratives give high credence to the concept, with others barely mentioning the passage of time. Digging deeper with different phrases, different words, and with a more expansive data set could be beneficial to the discussion. Including dates specifically could be beneficial, as other words to describe the concept of time.