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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences literature

Data analysis, text mining drives literary research

outdoor portraitEnglish major Matthew Jockers wasn’t always a computer whiz. The new dean of the WSU College of Arts and Sciences recalls a class in high school in which he struggled to program a mainframe to print out his name. “It was that tricky,” he says.

A love of reading, writing, and literature led him to become a very good coder indeed. Jockers is an expert in R, a programming language he uses to write the pattern-detecting algorithms at the heart of his research. Jockers uses it to analyze texts—lots and lots of text. One wag wrote that Jockers may be the only literature professor to assign 1,200 novels in a single class. » More …

Homer on a flash drive

Grigar in her computer lab.Plato is sitting at the feet of his mentor Socrates, writing down what the old philosopher says. What Socrates is saying, ironically, is that writing is bad for you: It rots your memory. Preserved in Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates’s opinion of the then-emerging technology sounds strange to us now—until you recall that that’s pretty much exactly what pundits in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have been saying about TV, video games, and texting.

Dene Grigar, director of Washington State University Vancouver’s program in Creative Media and Digital Culture, laughs and nods. She’s also the president of the Electronic Literature Organization, an international team of scholars and artists dedicated to creating, preserving and evangelizing “born-digital” art and literature. » More …