Adventures in Digital History


Since we have been looking at datasets all week, looking into some coding, and have recently discussed the plans for the final project in this class, I wanted to use this week’s journal to talk about some of the ideas I have for that project.

First off, I am absolutely doing the version of this project that involves making are article similar to the animated style found on The Pudding. I love those articles and think the animations make them more attention grabbing and immersive. I find myself remembering things from some of those articles simply because the animations stick out in my mind. Plus, I read WAY too many scholarly articles on a daily basis and will absolutely use this opportunity to jump outside the box and my comfort zone.

So far I have two ideas: 1) an computational analysis of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle and/or 2) a comparison of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

For the first topic I have several ideas.

  1. I think it would be interesting to play around with gender identity in writing. While Le Guin herself is a woman, she tends to write from a male perspective. While I have yet to read the entire Hainish Cycle, I have read The Left Hand of Darkness (which is told from the perspectives of a human man and a gender-neutral character) and The Dispossessed (which is also told from the perspective of a man). I had this idea back when we were reading Blatt’s book, and I think Le Guin would make an interesting case study because a cursory look into this revealed Le Guin’s writing is mistaken for that of a male author’s.
  2. Le Guin is responsible for inventing science fiction terminology and technology in her books. Some examples include NFAL (Nearly Fast As Light) and FTL (Faster Than Light) ships, as well as a real-time communication device called the ansible. The idea of the ansible is particularly revolutionary, because writers like Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Moon, and Vernor Vinge have adopted the term and used it in their own science fiction works. I think it would be interesting to pick some terms that are common between the books for the science fiction genre and examine how often those words appear. The Wikipedia page on Ansible also provides a good look into other works that could be examined for this!

For the second topic, this is something I have wanted to do ever since I completely read and watch all media related to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. There is no arguing J.R.R. Tolkien was making waves with his fictional work. The first edition of The Hobbit was published in 1937, while the Lord of the Rings series was published between 1954-1955. The Harry Potter series was published between 1997-2007. At a glance, you would say the two series are different. However, the more you look the more you realize there are more than a few similarities. The following meme post sums up my thought process on the matter:

Similarities between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Image from Quora.

For both topics, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how I’ll make these ideas work. I need to think some things over and look through some computational text analysis methods before continuing, but I know I’m going to do one of these topics. At the moment I’m leaning more towards the Le Guin Ansible idea, but the Tolkien-Rowling Connection is a bit hard to pass up. For now I’m going to leave this post here until I can figure out how to approach either of these ideas.

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