CEDAR: Corpora and Wikis

I attended the second session (having missed the first due to being brain dead) of the Collaborative Digital Research in the Humanities (CEDAR) postgraduate training program this past weekend. (Don’t ask me about the acronym.) The topics covered corpora and wikis, specifically with regard to knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The corpora discussion was very linguistic-based, and so not much was very directly applicable to my own work. I can use the tools to do some curiosity-led analysis of my work, figuring out which words come up the most frequently in a piece of fiction, and in what relations and contexts they appear. Of course, what I found when I did this on my novel WIP is that the character names overwhelmed everything else. Duh.

But this topic also included something a little fun, in the form of Wordle. This is a fun little web “toy” that takes in a plain text file, a blog, and a few other source types, and builds a word cloud that you can then play with a little bit to get the best visual expression. I ran a few of my pieces through it, mostly getting character name clouds. But I also ran this blog through it (see the pic above), and it was interesting to see the words that spring out: most notably TIME, and STORY. GAME, DIGITAL, PHD, TEACHING, and CONFERENCE are prominent as well. It’s also kind of funny to me that PUCKER is so big. Hmm. I wonder if I’ve been stressed at all?

It may be a toy for linguists, but I can really see some uses for it in my work:

  • Foundation for creating hyperlinks within a digital story. Using this tool, I can see what words and themes come up very strongly within a story (maybe by searching and deleting all character names before running the file through Wordle). I can use that as a basis for linking ideas and scenes together.
  • Creating a visual representation of a story. I love having the words form this visual cloud that can tell you about a story, giving it an abstract (in a very abstract sense!).

The wiki sessions were a bit more applicable to myself, at least as far as research is concerned. Not much of it was really new knowledge to me, as I’ve already participated in several wikis, even back before there were any WYSIWYG platforms for them.

But it did refresh them in my mind, and gave me something to think about as far as the interactivity of my digital stories is concerned. I’ve been wondering how to include those aspects, and now I’m wondering if I can incorporate a WYSIWYG wiki into the digital story to allow readers to contribute new elements to the stories, to contribute to the story world, to communicate, to interact. I actually really love this idea, and I think I’ll try to add it to the current story I’m writing/adapting as a prototype of the project as a whole.

Given that, I’m going to be setting up two different wikis, to test them. The first is hosted on PBWiki.com, whose basic personal wiki is free, but has limited functionality compared to the pay wikis. But I have the ability to upgrade, should it prove successful. The other is through Google Sites, which I am very familiar with already, and is entirely free.

Keep an eye out for announcements – when the story and adaptation are finished, I’ll be sending around invites for test readers!

Overall, I found the CEDAR session really useful, and actually inspirational. It was also nice to get to chat with others doing research in the field (though we agreed there aren’t many of us). I’m really looking forward to Session 3 in May, all of which looks directly applicable to my work:

  • Reading and writing in the digital age
  • Transliteracy: forms of literacy in the digital age – e-publishing, digital project design, JeS system
  • Organising creative processes
  • From inspiration to revision: multimedia for creative and academic writing

Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, and playing with the word clouds and wikis!

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