Summer 2016 Video Games camp registration is coming soon. Check back in December!
In this course student team members will use text mining technology to explore the University Libraries’ large digital collection of Dime Novels.
Text mining, a variety of data mining, provides researchers with an opportunity to analyze very large bodies of text, much more than an individual could ever read with understanding. Text mining software reveals patterns within a collection of works. One basic technology, topic modeling, reveals the frequency with which specific words occur in a set of texts, and which most frequently appear in close proximity to each other. It is especially useful in determining the subject matter of unlabeled text(s). Another, sentiment analysis, helps researchers to evaluate a writer’s attitude or emotional state pertaining to a topic, or her/his intended emotional communication (i.e., the emotions that the author hopes to evoke in the reader).
Dime Novels emerged as an inexpensive format for popular literature in the mid-nineteenth century and remained popular in the first decades of the twentieth century. Early dime novels frequently told stories of the American West, and in the succeeding decades authors expanded their focus to include detective fiction, romances, as other genres. Until recently most scholars of American literature rejected Dime Novels as a mass-produced product with little literary value. In recent years a new generation of researchers, including those more broadly interested in American popular culture, have delved into them.
In addition to its scholarly applications, text mining technology is widely used in many aspects of private business, including social media monitoring and automated online ad placement. It has also proven valuable in the public sector, for example in the national security/intelligence community.
This is a short description for the experiential learning class scheduled to take place next fall. It will work on a GIS resource presenting data from the Mississippi Valley of the mid-nineteenth century – the place that Mark Twain wrote about in his most famous works.
Mark Twain made the Mississippi Valley in the nineteenth century an integral part of American historical memory and mythology in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Life on the Mississippi (1883), and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885). This experiential learning class will provide students with an opportunity to gather and present different types of data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, in order to compare Twain’s fictional descriptions with that provided by the historical record. Students will work with an existing web site, Mark Twain’s Mississippi (http://twain.lib.niu.edu), which provides a fully searchable and indexed digital library of primary source materials. In addition to Twain's celebrated Mississippi works themselves, collected text materials include his known correspondence from the period that he trained and served as a river pilot as well as steamboat passengers' travel narratives and accounts and descriptions of individual cities, plantations, and other notable sites along the Mississippi. These materials feature contemporary discussions of major issues that Twain raised in his Mississippi River works, including race and slavery; western settlement and conflicts with Native Americans; the emergence of a new American economic order replacing Twain's world of villages and steamboats with railroads and factories; the development of genteel culture and westerners' reactions to and interpretations of it; and America's sectional crisis, Civil War, and Reconstruction.
Class participants will use Geographic Information Systems technology to extract and examine Twain and his contemporaries’ descriptions of individual locations along the Mississippi, as well as federal census data and election returns. At the end of the semester they will present a web site presenting their data as a paper describing how they did their work and how it bears on historical and literary hypotheses.
Oculus Rift (2014-2015) – The goal of this project was to create an inexpensive virtual reality experience to help users better visualize the three-dimensional models, representations, and graphs that are critical to learning advanced mathematics like Calculus. The ideal solution would strengthen the ability of students to be mentally fluent moving between symbolic equations, two dimensional diagrams, and three dimensional mental representations. Using relatively inexpensive hardware (a computer, the Oculus Rift and a game controller) and open source software developed as a part of this project, we would like to give advanced mathematics students and instructors a new way to explore three-dimensional representations of mathematics from a first person, immersive perspective. We hope that this experience would not only allow students to achieve a greater understanding of the particular model or graph being examined, but also scaffold students’ creation of their own mental three-dimensional representations of symbolic equations and two dimensional diagrams.
Online Collaborative Argumentation Tool (2014-2015) - In the spring of 2014 a student team designed an online tool to support collaborative argumentation in science for middle school students of different cultures. The end product is being developed as an interactive pod for Adobe Connect.
Text Mining (2015)– This team helped the NIU library identify, pilot, and document text-mining software library users can use to analyze a very large bodies of text. Typically text-mining work is described as "distant reading," in which software is used to detects patterns in bodies of text much too large to be read by an individual. These patterns can provide new insight in thinking about what the texts mean, be it from the perspective of the historian, scholar of literature, or student of language itself.