By Aisling Kilcawley
I wouldn’t consider myself as a “book worm” by a long shot, simply as I don’t take that much time-out to read books. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t read books at all. I enjoy certain books, mostly fiction and mostly apocalyptic. When I find myself to be enjoying the book, I turn into a fanatic. Then when I’m finished, I go for ages without reading again. I suppose the correct term for me would be a “binge reader”.
A particular series of books that I read years ago, “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Clare, is an example of a fanatical phase that I went through. The series consists of six books, five of which I powered through without even blinking and the sixth I had to wait patiently for it to be released, then I powered through that when it was.
With this assignment, it gave me the opportunity to re-cap on this series in a visual and analytical manner, which was a very interesting experience as I’ve grown used to reading fiction on a text basis. I was also very pleased that I was able to recover events that happened in the series, which I had forgotten about.
For this assignment, I decided to focus on the first book, “City of Bones”, as this is the book that everything is introduced in. Here is a brief summary to get an idea of what the book is about: Clary Fray, (Main Character) who is fifteen years-old, heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air.
This is where Clary has her first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
The next step I took was finding a visualisation tool that I was comfortable with using and that I found fit for my text. After a lot of searching, I found an interesting tool called www.textexture.com, which filters out the most common used words and then connects them to less significant words used. It allows you to click on a particular word and it will show a network of other words that are connected to that word. Then it shows you quotes from the text that has that word included, along with the word it’s linked to.
As an example, I used chapter four from “City of Bones” as it’s the most important part of the book that explains the entire situation.
The above screenshot is a network of all the most common words used in this chapter. The larger nodes indicate the most significant words within the chapter, that being the characters of the book. This network shows the relationship between the words. They are connected and somehow related to each other in various ways.
As I moved my curser around the network, other significant words appear such as the word “Shadowhunter” in the screenshot above.
This screenshot shows the network after you create your own filtered path. With this example, I first clicked on Clary, which then lead me on to clicking Shadowhunter and then onto Valentine. This is significant as the quotes that are along the side are only to do with the filtered path I chose. After analysing the data I gathered, I found out that Valentine was a Shadowhunter but is now dead.
As someone who had forgotten a lot about the text, I struggled to remember certain terms within the book. Like what a Warlock is for example, so I asked the text by seeing the word “Warlock” pop up in the network and clicking it. It then showed me the definition from one of the quotes inside the text:
The sort of answers that can be supported through the visualisation that wouldn’t be answered through reading it is the clarification, as it is a lot more distinct than reading the text.
My exploration of the text and the visualisation tool is to make the text more understandable, as it a complex text. It has many different terminologies and using this tool makes it easier to clarify what these mean.
Out of curiosity, I decided to try this tool on a text that I was unfamiliar with seeing as I knew it worked well on the previous text. The website provides a list of texts that other users have already visualised so it was simple for me to choose. I wanted to try a text that had contrast to the previous text, so I chose the speech “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King.
After a lot of searching through this visualisation of the text, I was able to find answers to cultural questions I had about life as a negro in Mississippi in 1963. Like how injustice to the negro community was more common than I thought.
After clicking on the negro node, the above screenshot shows the network that negro is connected to. Quotes from the speech had also shown up and I was very moved by the contents of the speech containing the word “negro”.
I was also very moved as Martin Luther King not only tried to unite the negro community into the white community, but tried to unite all communities together.
On another note, the tool I used was very spectacular and unique but I had some problems with loading the page, stating that the website lost the connection to the server on multiple occasions. I also had problems with loading previous texts I visualised, stating that they are there but when I go to load them they weren’t. The task was challenging but very helpful with future navigation of information through texts.