Digital Humanities
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Visualizing Poetry: Multivariate Data Analysis with Poem Viewer

Introduction to Poem Viewer

Poem Viewer was developed by a multidisciplinary team of computer scientist, linguist, poets, and literary scholars at the University of Oxford and the University of Utah under the Digging into Data Challenge. It is an in browser tool that supports close reading through multivariate data analysis. Users are able to visualize, interact with, and identify the connections found within a poem, with an emphasis on the poem’s semantic and phonetic relations.

About this skillshare tutorial

This tutorial is intended to introduce potential users to the key features available on Poem Viewer. The main goals are to provide guidance for visualizing an available poem and an overview of the available attributes through an exploration of the tool’s control panel of variables and mapping options. Finally, the tutorial explains the process for manually uploading a poem to visualize.

User Feedback

Before the final version was published, informal usability tests were conducted with three participants. The following key changes were made based on feedback given by a current LIS professional and two undergraduate students studying psychology and English Literature, and linguistics, respectively. While all three participants were asked to watch and comment on the tutorial objectively in an initial viewing, it was then asked that each participant view and comment on the tutorial in relation to their current work and studies. The LIS professional was asked to consider the potential effectiveness of the tutorial from a teaching and learning standpoint, while both undergraduates asked to consider their own personal and academic interests in both poetry and textual analysis.

It was agreed that zooming in was useful, but still unclear for some portions. Annotations were then added to provide more clarification. Also, in the previous version, the tutorial began with the sample visualization immediately after the introduction. It was suggested that a brief overview be provided about the available poems in the tool. Finally, when the animated macro-glyphs were introduced in the structured view of the poem, there was a brief pause added to allow potential users some time to get a better glimpse of this application. This addition occurred after two of the users mentioned they had difficulties understanding what was meant by “animated” because the previous version of the tutorial did not show it in detail.

Poemage: An alternative to Poem Viewer

Similar to Poem Viewer, Poemage is another visualization tool that explores the geometric properties and spatial relations of a poem’s phonetic properties. This tool was also developed by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Utah in an effort to support close reading. Poemage is open source, but currently only available through download. According to the main site, a web version is in development. One of the biggest differences between both tools is Poemage’s focus is more so spatially related is referred to as “sonic topology”. Poem Viewer is more so focused on the visualization of multivariate textual analysis with an emphasis on phonetic and semantic connections.

Future directions

  • To provide closed captioning to accommodate potential users with accessibility needs.
  • Best practices for using the tool; highlighting why or why not certain mapping designs may work more so than others.
  • Additional details on locating and utilizing an effective phonetic transcription resource for manually uploaded poems.
  • An in depth tutorial comparing both Poem Viewer and Poemage.