Malamud at Oregon State: A Digital Humanities Project

Part One: Visualizations (Distant Reading)


This section comprises the distant reading portion of the Textual Investigations project on Malamud's A New Life. Here we will display a collection of visualizations of interactions between Levin and other characters over the course of the novel, particularly centered around the acquisition, protection, and obfuscation of information correlated with power in the politically charged climate created within the novel.

These visualizations are based on metadata which we encoded manually by reading through the novel and noting where specific types of interactions (such as "Levin learns new information") occur and with which characters they occur.


These visualizations lead to interesting trends from a macro perspective, but it's important to first be aware of the limitations of the process used in their creation. The acquisition of this metadata meant that we had to cast complicated interactions in terms of basic interactions - an inherently reductive process (and one that's clearly open to interpretation and subjectivity). Furthermore, the metadata represents the quantity of these interactions rather than their relative importance. For example, when Levin tells Pauline "I love you" on page 219, this can be literally interpreted as a single instance of Levin giving Pauline information. Clearly, though, this interaction is far more significant to the story than Levin learning, for example, about Gilley's interest in photography in the novel's beginning.

Another weakness about our coding is that the coded interactions are tied to the page in which they occur in our data. This creates issues where interactions with multiple characters occur in the same page, because it isn't clear from the data which interactions are associated with which character in particular. Thankfully this issue only occurs in a few specific situations throughout the entire book (such as the first chapter), but it's something to keep in mind when interacting with these visualizations. And lastly, please note that with the way that the visualizations are currently displayed, it can be easy for data to be obfuscated or hidden behind other data (here visualized as lines on a line graph). Please approach graph interpretation with care and click on specific variables in the graph legends to help highlight them and make them more visible when viewing.

The Bigger Picture:

What these limitations ultimately boil down to is the graphs in this section should be used to view overall trends of the book as a whole. Our coding scheme is designed to excel from a macro perspective, and we believe the visualizations that stem from it can provide meaningful insights into how types of interactions shift as the novel progresses.

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