July 24, 2014

Text Visualization / Content Analysis with @VoyantTools

Many of my research colleagues do content analysis on newspapers, and there's a new tool which may provide useful to them. Let's explore Voyant Tools, a "web-based reading and analysis environment" which provides lots of high-level insight into text.

 I did a quick LexisNexis search on articles written in college newspapers about sexual assault and pasted a few of them into Voyant-Tools.org. You can see the word cloud above as well as the text on the right.

If you click on any of the words in the cloud or in the text itself you'll also see where in the document the term appears, and you can see a list of Keywords in Context.

Click on the plus-sign next to the phrase, and you see more of the context.

I was able to export a URL for this Keywords in Context chart, so you can see it in all its glory.

There are myriad other export features in the tool, including a list of words by count, comma- and tab-separated options, and more.

It seems like a good option for exploring text on a very broad level. And it's a quick way to provide graphics for publications or presentations on your text analysis.

There is a stop-word list so you can exclude common words; you can edit this list as well (I excluded lots of common LexisNexis terminology like "u-wire" and "document;" should I have excluded "said" as well?). It is possible to upload multiple documents, so that you can compare coverage of a topic in one newspaper against coverage in another paper.

Some of the limitations for newspaper research include:
  • It's not possible to analyze pdfs, for relatively obvious reasons; but this eliminates the ability to search many historic newspapers which are available online only as pdfs.
  • If you export multiple stories from LexisNexis or America's News, they are exported as one document, which makes it impossible to compare documents against each other in Voyant-Tools. To do this kind of analysis, you'd need to export the documents one at a time, which would quickly get tiresome.
Here's a screen shot of an analysis I did of eight individually downloaded articles from LexisNexis -- that process was a bit cumbersome, but the data is interesting:

The chart at right shows the number of times the word "women" appears in each of the eight artcles. You can see a quick analysis of all the words in the eight articles under the Word cloud (or here).

This has great potential in the newspaper content analysis toolbox.

July 01, 2014

Photo Apps @FolkSchool ... Phun with iPhone Photos

I truly enjoyed Catherine Anderson's Seeing with Quiet Eyes class at the John C. Campbell Folk School last week. I learned a lot and took some great photos. I bought an Easy-Macro iPhone (and other phone cameras) macro lens ... which I used to take this photo of a lily sticking through leaves at UNC's Arboretum.

We spent an afternoon playing with photo apps for the iPhone and iPad. Catherine mentioned 8-10 ... most of which are ad-supported / free with ad-free versions available. The ones I tried are:

A general photo editing program (from Google). There are multiple editing options in Snapseed, and most of them can be made by finger-swiping. Editing is easy for newbies - you don't have to know about healing or contrast or white balance ... just click on an option and swipe.
  • Before & After in Snapseed - as easy as clicking the landscape button on the top right of the screen: 

  • My final Snapseed image:
This lets you put multiple photos on one image. In addition, you can tweak image borders - change from square to rounded, and change the colors.
border and color options in Photopath
Final Photopath image ... of the Folk School

Phonto lets you put text on images -- and offers a great many fonts, layout options, and even symbols.

Repix lets you draw on your photos. It's not something I'd do all that often, but the sparkly effects sure are fun on this lily. I also used Repix' filter options - which you can apply and tweak to increase or decrease the effect.

Catherine also mentioned Waterlogue, which turns images into watercolor paintings. I didn't download it, but the demo in class was very pretty.

For online image editing, Catherine suggests ipiccy.com; I'd already started using PicMonkey (at @samkatben's recommendation) -- so check them both out.

Catherine suggested Costco (Costco Photo Center) as a great option for ordering photos. I just ordered some and am very impressed with the ordering options. These include:
  • Turning off their auto-correct - useful if you've spent time correcting color or removing blemishes.
  • Customizing text printed on the back of photos (I have set the default to include the date).
  • Set the crop for individual photos. Tell them where you want a 8x10 cropped, which is different from where a 4x6 image would be cropped. 
  • Inexpensive -- for me, 8x10 photos are $1.49 and 11x14 photos are $2.99. I even printed one at 8x8 (for $1.49).
  • Catherine likes ordering larger images from Costco because larger photos don't get rolled.
For more great ideas from Catherine, check out her 2011 book the Creative Photographer.