Giving Compass’ Take:
• EdSurge reports on a method called “distant reading,” which uses an algorithm to analyze text; one Massachusetts teacher is using it to engage students in both computer science and literacy.
• Could “distant reading” apply to other subjects and be scaled across programs? On the skeptic’s side, does poring over words with an algorithm take any of the magic or craft out of literature?
Calculating ratios for different types of pronouns in civil rights speeches. Counting the frequency and proximity of vowel sounds, consonant sounds and rhymes in rap music.
Those are just two examples of the projects students have taken on in teacher Peter Nilsson’s “Distant Reading” course at Deerfield Academy, an independent boarding school in western Massachusetts.
What is “distant reading”? It’s when a large body of literary texts are analyzed using some sort of algorithm (it can also involve data visualization). The name is in opposition to “close reading,” where generally, one text, or narrow passages of that text, are acutely pored over. But scholars can employ a bit of both in any given project, and can apply the tools of distant reading to one work of literature, says Mark Marino, the director of communication at the Electronic Literature Organization, a group that focuses on the writing, reading and publishing of literature in the digital age.
Nilsson says that at its core, the course he created with three of his fellow teachers (another English teacher and two computer science teachers) is about using mathematical software (in this case, Wolfram Mathematica) to analyze texts, such as Donald Trump’s Wikipedia page and Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” and gain fresh insights.
Read the full article about bringing computer science and literature together by Tina Nazerian at EdSurge.
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