I’m spending this week in Eugene, Oregon at a NEH sponsored institute dedicated to Digital Humanities work within community colleges. What with one thing and another (writing books…) I’m a little out of the DH loop. Today (day 2) I learned about, and spent some time playing with, some potentially useful tools.
One of these is Voyant Tools, a web-based text analysis tool. Thinking to the manuscript I just sent on to McFarland on conspiracy narratives and conspiracy culture, I played around with loading different iterations of conspiracy theorist Bill Cooper’s MAJESTYTWELVE manifesto into it to analyze the differences. I entered three versions from Cooper’s website(s) and one from another site.
Cooper tended to update his manifesto as his research and interests broadened and, somewhat admirably, he never made any attempt to hide that. The additions over time help illustrate new directions into which his fears and crusades drifted throughout the late 1990s. Below is the output of the analysis:
[“NOTE! No idea who Bill Cooper is? Get yourself a copy of my short, inexpensive collection of essays The Chaos Conundrum,” Gulyas cheekily suggested…]
My mind is urgently turning over possible uses for this type of tool (and many others) in the introductory history classroom but I’m also thinking of its usefulness in analyzing the changeable and fluid nature of “fringe” parapolitical or paranormal/conspiratorial texts on the internet. It’s a bit of a commonplace that there are numerous versions of key documents floating around websites and–showing my age a bit, here–Usenet. The “Krill Report,” John Lear’s statements, Cooper’s prolific late 1980s output (which, interestingly, he would later imply was not entirely his, claiming that disinformation was being put out in his name), and the like appear in various places, often with variations of varying significance. Tools like Voyant could be used to plunge more deeply, in a textual sense, into the fringe cultures of the 1980s and 1990s.
Yes, this is the first blog entry in six months or so. I’ll do better, promise.