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Excercise #1

3 min read

Looking at the Date and Time lists proved to be the most interesting aspect of Robinson Crusoe. Assuming that the NER processed and extracted data through the linear progression of the text, the pattern of Dates and the fluctuation of meticulous recording of dates and more approximate, less specific time frames speak volumes about Robinson Crusoe's psychological state and perhaps even the concept of time. The shift from a narrative form to a journal form occurs in Chapter VII, after what many would consider traumatic series of events in which he is shipwrecked, marks a notable shift in his psychological process. He erects a cross in which the date of his isolation begins: September 30th 1656. Since he is now without country, without society, without any relative markers of his identity through societal position, nationality, the succeeding obsession with ticking marks on the cross to keep track of dates and times, as well as the shift into meticulously tracking his days and the specificity of his lists, indicate a psychological process that acts as some sort of defense mechanism for an unmooring of his identity. When he goes back to the ship many times despite realizing the useless of money and material objects (as evinced in the NER's list of money, which is literally only one mention of a specific sum of money of 100 pounds), I would argue that despite the seeming contradiction of his acknowledgement that material and monetary possessions are arbitrary societal creations and his action of taking the money regardless, it is an attempt to help him reconcile with his unmooring. The obsession with tracking and recording becomes a way to cope with displacement of his being. Psychologically, when trauma occurs and one's being is fragmented and seriously questioned, materiality and obsession becomes a way in which one can remind oneself of their physicality, their realness. If Crusoe's identity cannot be defined by relative social position, by others, and by common societal norms that typically define one's place and identity (like organizations or institutions, given NER's seemingly nonsensical list of organizations that include things like "*" and "NW"), then his material possessions (hence the unrealistically meticulous accounting of his possessions) become what he is defined by. His obsession with journaling, which is especially highlighted by the NER date list, reflects that as well. Even though the novel is Crusoe's recollection of his adventures, at the time of the journal he probably would not think that it would be read by others or there was a use for it other than keeping his physicality grounded and real. I'd be really interested in going back and tracking the pattern of meticulous record keeping and then the loss of interest, as evinced by certain chunks picked up by the NER that begin to be more looser and approximate measures of time, such as "spring", "the half of April", and "this second captivity the same" to see what triggers his obsession with almost daily date keeping.

The NER is really interesting in that it compacts and highlights certain aspects of the novel that, when reading the text itself, may not be as thematically overt. Listing "Heaven" as an organization is incredibly interesting, as Crusoe turns to religion once he has nothing real left. Seeing the pattern and the trajectory of date keeping in a compact list highlights a trend that may not have been as prominent to keep in mind when I read the narrative text.

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It is so interesting to me how people’s view of the world has changed throughout time. At least since Homo sapiens have been around, the geographical locations of landmasses haven’t changed much, but humans’ vision of these lands have changed immensely.

The most obvious examples I can think of is Marco Polo’s travels in Asia and his subsequent introducing Europeans this unknown place through his writings, and the discovery of the New World. It reminds me of being very young, before I really understood that there were other places that existed outside the U.S.

I would love to do some kind of meta-analysis on how often texts reference other places, when these places became more varied, and how these trends changed throughout time. This would involve making a map like the one in this exercise for thousands of texts from different centuries. By looking at this particular map, it seems that by the time Robinson Crusoe is published, the average European citizen had a pretty broad awareness of the world. But just the fact that RC is about a man who is trapped on an UNKNOWN island speaks to the possibility that people were very unsure about the finite nature of the world.

This makes me think of relating global awareness with other trends of thought. I remember reading theories of cosmopolitanism by Pheng Cheah, who gives a history of cosmopolitanism. I would be interested in tracing this trend of awareness of the world to the rise of cosmopolitanism. I think we may also compare global awareness to the rise of nationhood. One theory about the rise of nationhood is that nations are partly defined as a place that is different from other places. Nations need other nations to set them apart, so increased global awareness may partly account for this.

I realize I am thinking of a very Euro-centric line of thought, i.e. I am thinking of Europe’s increasing awareness of other places outside Europe throughout time. But perhaps we could do analysis on how different regions came to think of the rest of the world by studying texts from only a specific region. Then we could also compare the different trends from different regions.


A lot of my first thoughts regarding the map we generated with the location data is similar to what was previously mentioned. For one, the map view of the locations, even without the 17 errors, I think really drives home the idea of the sheer number of locations mentioned in the novel. But, contrary to what I had written in my last blog post, the mentions of locations of this book are simply that, just mentions of the locations. Reading further into the novel, we see that Crusoe visits very few of these locations, and is mostly referring to them in talk. Cody's idea that this novel is not globalized but rather globally aware is not only hilarious but really spot on when looking at this map. Furthermore, we can see the colonialist aspects of this book when viewing the distribution of locations of the map. We see a geographical focus on the European, colonial superpowers and then spotty references or visits to their colonies across the West African seaboard and the Americas. Also, the Great River being placed in Thailand made me smile.

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Assignment 2

2 min read

It was really interesting to see the locations visited or mentioned in Robinson Crusoe spread out on a map. Like other people have pointed out, the map has many errors (like placing the Amazon in the United States). Europe seems to have the largest cluster of locations, while North America seems to have the second most. The locations in the second group are all errors; the novel doesn't mention any North American locations. (America might pass as not being an error but, oddly enough, the map placed it in the middle of the United States when in the novel Robinson Crusoe does refer to South America.) It should be noted that I also didn't purge my list of erroneous locations, so that added to the confusion. For example, St. Augustine in the novel refers to a monastery and not the city. One thing I found really interesting (which was also one of the causes of the errors) was the length of time between when the novel was published and now, the time in which we are reading and analyzing it. In this assignment, we're taking locations from 1719 and matching them to places in 2015. That's 296 years of change. Though the land/geography itself hasn't changed over the years, the human cities certainly must have. For example, though they occupy the same location, 1719 Madrid is not 2015 Madrid. This large gap in time is partially what allows for some of the errors: North America in Robinson Crusoe was pretty much unlabeled, while now many more places in North America have names. These new names include copycats which enable errors saying that Yorkshire is in the United States.

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Assignment 2: Visualizing Eurocentrism

2 min read

Looking at my post from last week, I want to take back my assertion that Robinson Crusoe is a “globalized” novel. After reading deeper into the novel and examining what MyMaps had to offer, I’d tweak this statement to say that the novel is “globally-aware”. When this novel was published amidst the height of colonialism, I imagine most English readers had heard of the many foreign locations picked up by the NER. What they most likely didn’t have was a sufficient cultural understanding of said locations. Perhaps this is why Defoe’s novel still seems to give off a European aura. Despite the fact that Crusoe spends the majority of his time off the shores of England, he still serves as the embodiment of Western European society and its colonial values. This is supported by MyMaps, which indicates that the number of referenced European locations is roughly equal to those that are non-European. While this can lead us to believe that Robinson Crusoe is at least curious about geography on a global scale, I doubt it can convince us of much more. In fact, by mistaking several European locations for non-European ones, the program masks what is actually a disparity between the two categories. Even if we analyze MyMaps spatially, we can see that non-European locations are scattered, whereas the European references are far more congested. On its own, the map can tell us that Defoe’s novel is rich with European culture and not-so-rich with others.

To address some of the errors, I still find it interesting that the NER mistakes references like “Bible”, “Christ”, and “Blessed Virgin” for locations. These would clearly fit more appropriately into other categories, which is why MyMaps was unable to pinpoint them on the world map. Also, as I already alluded to, several American locations—such as “Trinidad”, “Yorkshire”, and “Navarre”—actually belong elsewhere. If these mistakes were to be corrected, the map would appear even more Eurocentric than it already does.

Just as a final note, my PC was far more cooperative for this second go-around! Granted, the steps weren’t nearly as complicated, nor did they require me to install third-party software. Still, I gave a sigh of relief when everything went as planned on my first attempt.

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It's easy to make fun of... but maybe a little too easy

3 min read

Well, we were warned at least. Yes, as everyone else has point out already, a few things were lost when we took our list and moved it over to MyMaps. Well, I shouldn't leave it at that; we lost some things, and gained new things. For example, we learned that Robinson Crusoe actually talked a lot about obscure places in the United States; that totally went over my head when I first went through the book. This exercise really helped me understand just how little I really knew about this character. I mean, I knew Crusoe was all about Europe, but I didn't know he was pro-America too. In all seriousness though, it could have been worse... I guess? At least MyMaps didn't mark "Christ" as a location. That would've gotten some interesting reactions. Outside of the humorous mistakes, the MyMaps exercise pretty much showed us what we were expecting to see: the novel, which takes place on a deserted island for a majority of the time, is extremely Euro-centric. But what else are we supposed to expect? To start out with, this book was written in the early 1700s by an Englishman. I don't want to make a generalization, but for now I'll make an exception... most of the European writers during this time weren't too worried about keeping their books diversity friendly. For starters, Defoe's reading base was probably completely dominated by Europeans and Americans. Most of these people probably didn't care if the book was Euro-centric. Most Europeans were probably pretty Euro-centric themselves. On top of all that, the novel is written through the perspective of Robinson Crusoe, another Englishman from the 17th century. I'm not an expert of European history by any stretch of the imagination, but a general trend in history is that the further back you go, the more conservative it is. So it only makes sense that Robinson Crusoe was as Euro-centric as he was. Does it mean Eurocentricity is acceptable? Definitely not. But pointing out how Euro-centric the novel is, is like pointing out how much of a jerk Andrew Jackson was. It basically almost goes without saying. On the other hand, though, it's important to remember how far we've come in fiction. Robinson Crusoe is considered one of the first novels, so by using MyMap and the NER to point out its flaws, we can really see what the world of literature has accomplished since its earliest days. This, of course, has a large part to do with the fact that the world in general has made massive steps since the 1700s, but it's still nice to see. It also forces us to visually see how novels, even those that broke new ground in literature, have their faults. And this doesn't just hold true for older novels; there are almost certainly flaws in literature published today, even in the books that will be studied for years to come. I think it's important to feel a little bit of humility, so that when we go on throughout the year and pour over these novels for weeks on end, we don't look at them as untouchable perfections. Like everything else in the world, these novels are great, but they have their flaws... and it's just as important to understand what authors have done wrong as it is to understand how they succeeded.

Mapping Crusoe

2 min read

I had a good time with this—mostly laughing at MyMaps. Its mistakes are understandable, but amusing nonetheless. Of the eleven places MyMaps located in America, the only one it got right, as far as I can tell, was “America,” which apparently is on the border of Kansas and Oklahoma. Even better, according to the NER, “Blessed Virgin” is apparently a location. Understandably, MyMaps was unsure as to what to do with that. There were also numerous actual places that MyMaps wasn’t able to recognize due to spelling variations or other variables.

Jokes and shortcomings of the programs aside, however, this exercise was interesting to me mostly because of what we discussed in class. Though Robinson Crusoe involves its fair share of traveling, Crusoe does not actually visit nearly as many places as Defoe mentions; perhaps this reflects a restlessness or curiosity of the age. This is purely speculative, but it would seem to make sense that the early 18th century was, in many ways, a period in flux between today’s globalized world and the isolation of previous centuries. Travel was difficult and not available to the everyday person, but, simultaneously, there was an awareness of other worlds that hadn’t existed before. Crusoe reflects that; he satisfies some of the curiosity through travel, but, due to the limitations of the time, his curiosity still outpaces his experience.

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Assignment 2: Google vs. the Editors of Robinson Crusoe

3 min read

The MyMap data was really helpful in instantly visualizing where exactly Crusoe was talking about instead of just scanning a list of words. That being said, there were a number of ways the mapping system didn’t work, which makes analyzing it a multi-layered process. First, there were the problems with locations that Google couldn’t figure out how to map, which accounts for the 21 “errors” that weren’t mapped out of a list of 79--some of these places were just spelled differently (Brazils, Caribs), and some weren’t places at all (Blessed Virgin). Then there was the very common issue of MyMap placing location markers in the wrong location: “Trinidad” ended up in Colorado, “Amazon” was put in Montana, and “Navarre” was added to Florida. There were also issues that stemmed from the Locations list that I imported because I didn’t weed out all the non-locations before importing, which resulted in fun locations markers like “Abraham” in Utah and “Providence” in Rhode Island. Some locations were too vague, in which case Google did the best it could in placing “Great River” in Thailand.

In connecting all this to Robinson Crusoe and the map that was provided with later editions of the book, it’s obvious that different locations/places are important to Crusoe/Defoe/the editors of the book and Google. I think MyMap just takes everything we give it and plots the points as best it can with whatever country information seems most relevant to some mysterious algorithm. On the other hand, the editors of Robinson Crusoe were likely more selective with what they included in order to help the reader understand the important locations and not worry about extraneous ones. If the MyMap were able to correctly plot the locations that Crusoe traveled to, I expect there would be the most location markers in Europe, West Africa, and the Caribbean. As it is, there are a ridiculous amount of markers in Europe, which could erroneously give a viewer the impression that most of the story takes place there. Corrected for the 21 locations that weren’t plotted and all the ones that were plotted incorrectly, I think the MyMap would be a really good resource for noticing how similar Crusoe’s story is to that of a travelogue. He mentions so many foreign places in his writing, and whether he travels to them or not, some of the appeal of the novel must have been its comfortable foreignness, because it was always a neighbor/middle-class friend going to these places and having adventures and ultimately triumphing.

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Mapping and Colonialism

2 min read

Although the mapping tool did make mistakes, locating religious names and English towns in North America, they weren't all coincidence. Yarmouth, MA, Yorkshire, VA, and St. Augustine, FL were so named by Europeans who came to colonize the Americas around the time that Defoe wrote RC. Yarmouth and Yorkshire in particular were named after places in Great Britain. And yet, it is clear from the Robinson Crusoe map that North America isn't particularly important to the story; the only visible names on are "California", "Florida" and, I believe, "Brit Plantation." America is only described on the map in terms of its importance to Europe, and the same seems to be true of Africa. While each country in Western Europe gets its own name and fairly defined borders, Africa is divided into a handful of large sections--"Barbary", "Negroland", "Country of the Cafres", "Guine", and "Low Guinea." A brief venture into the etymology of these words suggests that for Europeans, the country "Barbary" and the derogative term "Barbarians" that Europeans used to refer to foreign peoples went hand in hand; that "Negroland" stemmed from the Spanish word "Negro"; and that the word "cafre" has its origins in the Arabic word "kafir", meaning non-believer, and that South Africans consider the word to be extremely offensive. Just as Crusoe's descriptions of Friday and himself measure them up against a European standard, so the map of Robinson Crusoe's world is really just Europeans naming foreign countries from their own skewed and often racist perspective. The Google map, however, is very different, delineating countries in both North America and Africa with their own individual names.

Assignment2

Assignment 2: Maps

2 min read

The map of Crusoe's journey is vastly different from the map of the locations Crusoe has mentioned. Even when cleaned up, so that old names now have their updated ones, and small Ohio towns do not take the mantle of European cities, this map has far flung locations, from America to Egypt. These are evidence of the extent of places Crusoe is comfortable and capable of referencing. Then, there is a dense mass of locations bristling through Western Europe. I saw this and understood why so many locations were there, but it made me cross, because that density did not in fact denote importance. Crusoe spent only the very beginning and the very end there, but, especially in the case of the end, he hit so many locations because he was on a journey. The most important location of all is an island that is never even named, and even if it were, would show up only once on my map.

I don't find this map particularly informative, because it isn't mining the right kind of data. Some of the places mentioned, Crusoe never sets foot on. Most, he appears in only briefly. The crux of the novel is in a small, unnamed space. For in fact, Robinson Crusoe is not a novel of a journey, if even a novel of an adventure. It is a tale of survival, but a trapped survival, which by definition does not span great distances. I imagine two possible informative maps: the first, of the world and Crusoe's journey through it, but putting importance (via colors or thickness of line) on duration of time spent in each place. The second, a magnification of the island. I would like to see where he was shipwrecked, where he built his tent, where his cave, his summer bower. Where were the goats penned? Where did he anchor his canoes? Where was the mainland, and where the cannibal ritual spot? These would be informative, and because they are fictional, cannot be plotted by google maps.

Assignment2

Mapping Colonialism

2 min read

As I look at my MyMap, the association that immediately jumped into my mind was that of the system of Triangular Trade that sustained the exchange of goods and slaves between European countries, their colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean Islands, and West Africa. RC spends the vast majority of his time on the integral coasts of this system, and as this route must have been familiar to Daniel Defoe and his fellow Englishmen and going off Wednesday’s discussion, I feel as though we must read this choice as inherently tied to the burgeoning colonialism of the young English Empire. Obviously a colonial state of mind makes itself apparent throughout much of RC, particularly in Crusoe’s view of himself and his role on the island (referring to himself as “king,” “owner,” “governor,” etc.) and his relationship with Friday, whom he takes ownership of and exerts imperialistic control over in his forcing of Christianity and the English language upon him, but in this mapping exercise it also occurred to me that to the middle-class English reader of the late 18th century, the locations and routes in the book alone would be enough to call forth the idea of English colonial conquest, although whether it takes a stance for or against it is a much more complicated matter.

Assignment2

Assignment 2: The "Known" World

2 min read

The My Maps algorithm added the data of associated countries into each row of locations. Initially, I suspected that the algorithm searched and linked each specific location to the most likely country. This process would allow the application to pinpoint each location on the map. However, there were many rows that were connected to the wrong countries, leading me to believe that the algorithm gives priority to the country of the user. For example, “Yorkshire” is placed in America, even though it should be placed in England. To the application, the location of the user is more important, and therefore the application believes that the user is referring to “Yorkshire” in America. Additionally, some of the locations such as “St. Martha” and “St. Salvador” are erred not because they are fictional, but because the names of these locations are too general, and are colonial names of towns or forts. However, some of the non-geocoded places were not placed due to being archaic terms, such as “East Indies”. Although the placements of some of the rows is an error in part of My Maps and outdated colonial names. A few errors are due to the NER algorithm. For example, “Bible” and “Blessed Virgin” should have been placed in organizations or one of the other classifiers.. The map of the delineated travels of Crusoe shows an old map of the “known” world, without much details of western North America. This map outlines the travel path of Crusoe, especially the routes he took to travel the trade world. Interestingly, this outlined map also shows the extent of imperialism by the European powers. Even in early 18th century, much of the European explored world were influenced by Spain, Portugal, and a few other European powers. The audience can get a better sense of how dominating Europe was in terms of trade and power. The My Maps version is better in showing the vast distances that Crusoe covered in his travels. To the audience, this version shows that Crusoe took on a portion of the world, rather than the entirety.

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Just Google it

3 min read

Combining the NER’s extraction with what MyMaps can do is pretty productive and a great way of visualizing the information the novel gives us. I appreciated our discussion in class on Monday of how when we’re reading, we don’t notice all of the proper nouns, all of the people and places mentioned — but the NER “flattens” all of this and by creating a list, makes all of the data jump out and seem important in the first place/all equally important. I would love to see what an actually correct MyMaps — so, all of the data from Robinson Crusoe totally cleaned (scrubbed?) and with the correct country info. I also think it would be cool if the location markers could be scaled based on the number of times he mentions it (so you’d have to use some kind of list with the duplicates still in it) — kind of a heat map of references in the book — or if you could size the markers based on how much time he spends in each location he actually visits. You could also use this — if all the data was correct — to mark where all of the material goods he exchanges or mentions come from and get some kind of approximation of European trade routes (or compare the Crusoe map to an actual exchange route map). Anyway, seeing a lot of possibilities for this overall. It’s funny to me that MyMaps can’t understand something like “Cape de Verde islands” or “St. Salvador” or “Havannah” — all of which are revealed as locations through a simple…Google search. I was also particularly amused by Google’s adding in of country data — locating places like Yarmouth in New England was funny. If someone looked at the map — made with imperfect data — and had never read Robinson Crusoe, I don’t think they’d really get a sense of the importance of locations in the novel in terms of with whom/where he trades, where he thinks he is, where he actually is, and where he spends most of his time. The “Farther Adventures” map gives something of a better sense of this. I’m glad I know how to use this tool now and how to link the NER with other tools. OT: I think creative data visualization through maps is especially cool and have lots of examples but this map (midway through the article) of Citibike use from the New Yorker is my favorite interactive one. I have no idea how you would make this but I wish I did/that I could model novels that involve a lot of movement in a similar fashion. http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/interactive-a-month-of-citi-bike

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Genre?; reduction vs conversion; what's so great about lists?

3 min read

Sometimes the NER worked really well, and sometimes not as much. I can imagine a range of applications for the tool that would be really compelling, and I’m really looking forward to thinking more deeply about the question of what is gained and what is lost by reducing — or maybe converting is a better term — a novel to a set of data. For me, using the NER on multiple texts either within the same genre or across genres to draw out particular distinctions or similarities would be really productive (obviously you’d need to clean the data pretty carefully if you wanted to draw real conclusions and advance theories about this), since I’m curious what you can tell using these kinds of tools/data about the ways in which texts adhere to, break with, or manipulate generic conventions. In general my experience with the NER was positive and made me feel a) like less of a failure when it comes to computer science after a disastrous CS21 experience, b) like I won’t fall behind in academia since I didn’t know what digital humanities actually consists of, and c) excited about the possibilities of doing exercises like these and seeing what the tools we’re going to use can tell us about novels/their history/the generic narratives associated with the texts.

W/r/t the actual exercise — I was particularly compelled by the NER’s failure when it came to cataloguing money in the book, since the first section of the novel is structured around/deeply concerned with money, status, power, etc. So, if someone who was just looking at the lists rather than reading the book was trying to understand that facet of it, it would be difficult. What relevant information does come through happened for me in the lists of names — there are lots of Biblical references, which aligns with how RC takes up Bible study pretty seriously during his island time — and the lists of dates and times, since these are basically what the novel has as a structure or plot, the passage of time, besides RC’s survival etc. His constant dating is reflected here.

In terms of what we can learn about lists from the book itself — beyond the NER we noted in class and briefly discussed that Crusoe is obsessed with cataloging and listing his belongings and that this might be sort of the framework for his proto-psychology, etc. I would love to explore more why exactly his lists and the tale of his survival is so compelling and creates narrative momentum — is it just the satisfaction of repeated problem-raising followed by closure/solution with material goods?

TL, DR: Great tool with hopefully big applications to generic questions I’m interested in; sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, but is an exciting new way of converting the book; RC obsessed with cataloguing and listing and it’s somehow interesting, why?

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After my long and complicated battle with my PC, I am now finally able to appreciate the interest that the rest of the class has expressed for these lists. The extensive list of locations struck me as the most thought-provoking. Offhand, it seems appropriate that a novel about seafaring adventures would be brimming with references to exciting, far-off places, as the Location list suggests. The list runs the gamut from somewhat everyday locations such as England, Europe, and York, to iconic cities such as Madrid, Jerusalem, and Paris, to a variety of exotic and wild islands and "New World" destinations. However, in spite of this impressive enumeration of foreign destinations, the majority of the novel takes place in a single location. This observation relates to something I have noticed throughout the book: whenever Crusoe ventures to other parts of the island besides his "castle," he describes his endeavors as "going abroad." The common connotation of "going abroad" involves someone traveling to a foreign country, but when Crusoe goes abroad he remains on the same small island, never wandering beyond walking distance from his settlement. The diverse list and the phrase “going abroad” create a contrast between the idea of exotic adventures and the reality of Crusoe's extremely restrained, stationary existence. This disparity is particularly interesting in the context of Robinson Crusoe as a novel that was supposedly meant to show middle class English citizens to a life of extravagant travel and adventure. In spite of this conception, Robinson Crusoe focuses more on the story of one middle class man's incredibly mundane subsistence in a single place for 28 largely monotonous years. Rather than a revolution of middle class life, this seems to me to be an example of those in the middle class being unable to escape their mediocre station in life even in circumstances as extreme as Robinson Crusoe's. The two opposing stories told by the Location list and the single location in which most of the novel is set reveal a contradiction in Robinson Crusoe as an exciting adventure novel and as a somewhat uneventful account of middle class life.

As a first-time user of the NER and someone completely unacquainted with the process(es) of digital data-mining of literature, this was a tedious but ultimately fascinating endeavor. The thing that caught my eye right off the bat was the disparity between the lengths of my PERSON and LOCATION lists, the latter being much longer and more varied than the former. The novel, as we’ve come to know it, is typically a very personal and social work. We usually come to know at least a few characters personally, and personal relations are often the driving force of the narrative. In Robinson Crusoe, this is certainly not the case. There are so many locations ( listed and described in much detail in the novel itself, and its driving force is the relationship between our protagonist and his environs rather than our protagonist and the people he interacts with, which I took as confirmation of my immediate feeling that Defoe’s tale is a rather antisocial or introspective one. I also found that these data echoed our class discussion about how the early novel may have found a role in sating the burgeoning middle class’s desire for travel and worldly excitement.


The “organization” list is the most interesting to me. I think it is the most informative as to what type of book this is, and perhaps gives hints as to what century the book was written, but it’s also the most mysterious list. It is informative about content, because from this list I can see that many types of people and places are mentioned, such as “Spaniards and “Mountain Tenereffe,” so either there is travel involved, or the novel takes place in a cosmopolitan city. I can also get a hint about time this takes place, because words like “Moors” appear, which is a word not very much in usage today unless discussing history. It is also the most mysterious list, because unlike in the other lists, the content is very varied. I don’t think I would identify this as an “organization” list if I did not know. Some components are very interesting--such as “heaven” or “nature.” At first glance, I thought the list resembled a poem, partly because of such words. I think it would be an interesting exercise to give this list to someone who does not know that this list is from Robinson Crusoe, and ask that person to tell us what they can infer from the book based on the list.

Assignment 1: Dates are weird.

2 min read

First and foremost, I think the experience of using the NER was fascinating. I've always wanted to think about novels in this sort of broad, quantitative way and I'm glad the NER finally allows us to do that.

The list that caught my eye the most was definitely the "DATE" list, because of the way that the formatting and presentation of dates, and thus the reader's sense of time, evolves over the course of the novel. As I pored through the entries (which I assume are presented in TextWrangler in the order in which they appear in Robinson Crusoe), I noticed two things: first, that the specificity of the dates mentioned in the novel experiences a gradual decline from the full month, date, and year (such as entry 5: 1st September 1659) to just the month, day, or even just the season by the end of the novel/list (entries 300 and 335: summer), and second, that Defoe really, really, REALLY likes Fridays for some reason. I guess we all like Fridays in a way, but it seems unusual for Defoe to mention Friday as many times as he did; I count well over 100 counts of the mention of the word "Friday". It's also interesting to note that most of the entries occur in the latter half of the list.

I was particularly drawn to the "DATE" list because, as an aspiring writer of novels, I often find myself having difficulty accurately conveying a sense of time, and deciding how much to explicitly write down versus letting my readers figure out on their own what time period I'm writing in. I enjoyed being able to see how frequently Defoe bothers to tell people what year or even what day of the week it is. I don't think I'd necessarily model my revelation of time after Defoe's in particular, but I'd love to try this exercise with novels by writers that I'm aspiring to write like, such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or Jennifer Eagan.

Questions I'm left with: If it's possible, how do we measure the distance in between two entries on these lists? Why does Defoe like Fridays so much? What other novels can we use the NER for?

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Assignment 1: Name & Location

2 min read

Before disclosing my findings from the lists that I ultimately created, it should be known that the technology I used was rather uncooperative throughout the entire process. While some of the difficulties I faced were likely due to the fact that I’m using a Windows device, I must also admit that my computer skills are sub-par at best. However, after roughly two hours of receiving errors and conducting tedious tweaks, I was finally able to produce a series of lists that I hope have at least some semblance to what the exercise intends. Hopefully my future attempts go a bit more smoothly, but until then I’m just going to run with what I’ve got.

Perhaps an appropriate segue, the “money” list caught my attention largely because I believed it to be a result of yet another technical error. This, however, is due to what I can only assume is a lapse in NER’s coding. Oddly enough, the program seems to be mistaking punctuation for money and tagging it under the corresponding category. What also interested me were the “location” entities and, more specifically, how they form such a broad and extensive list of locales. Given that Robinson Crusoe tells the tale of an aspiring adventurer, this observation should be expected. A similar theme carries over to the “person” entities, which feature a variety of non-European names such as “Friday” and “Xury”. In light of this information, it seems that Robinson Crusoe makes a conscious attempt to be as culturally rich and globally expansive as it physically can within the confines of a 250 page novel. For a reader living in 18th century England, I imagine this ambitious globe-trotting tale was a genuine marvel of its time.

RobinsonCrusoe

Assignment 1: Locations on the World Map

I marked as many of the locations mentioned in the book as I possibly could.