Category Archives: Wordmapping

Three Types of Visualization Software: Voyant,, and Palladio

Three open-access tools for the Digital Humanities offer different ways to analyze large collections of information.  For this class, we used the WPA Slave Narratives as digitized by the Library of Congress as source material to explore the functionality of each piece of software and its usefulness as an analytical tool.

Voyant is designed for text mining to create visual representations (graphs and word clouds) of the common terms found across a large database of source material.  It is most useful to analyze the common language and topics that occur across a large collection of source material.  It is relatively easy to use and easy to “toggle” between views to understand the prevalence of common terms across a large dataset and within identified subsets or collections within a larger dataset.  Like all of three software programs, the quality of visual representations relies on the extent of the source material and understanding how it was created.  I think this is an excellent tool for evaluating literary works and other “fixed” sources where the author’s intent is clearest. is a mapping software.  I found it the most cumbersome to use as a non-techie person, although being able to generate geographic visualizations of the sources of large datasets like the Slave Narratives is very useful.  Because my interest is less in mapping patterns across a geographical area and more in the relationships of the material itself, I found this produced the least useful visualizations at least with the dataset that we were using.

Palladio is a visualization tool that focuses on relationships between datasets, such as person and location or type of worker and topics discussed.  I found this to be an easy-to-use software that was most illuminating when focusing on interpersonal and subject relationships.  For geographic relationships, would be more useful.  Again, because my interest tended to be more topic-oriented than location-oriented, I found the visualizations to be easy to read and to understand and useful for my understanding of the source material.

Voyant Software for Researchers

Voyant Software for Researchers

The Voyant software package is a powerful program that allows researchers to find common terms and their relationships that appear in a large “corpus” (or collection of individual text files).  It can do word usage analyses by document and across the corpus, revealing patterns and relationships that might not be readily apparent to a researcher when considering using a collection.  Its main product is Wordclouds showing the prevalence and relationship of key terms and Graphing that shows the frequency of usage of a term or terms across the corpus.  Searches can be customized down to an individual file or grouping of files.  Individual words can be displayed in context in each individual document, another useful feature.

I was able to use the corpus of text files from the WPA Slave Narrative found in the Guttenberg Project to analyze the entire corpus and selected state collections.  I was able to create Wordclouds around key terms to see how key terms were related to other terms in a specific collection and across the entire corpus.  I was also able to examine individual documents and see key terms used in context.  I was able to graph the prevalence of terms across the corpus and within individual collections.  All of these enabled me to better understand some of the limitations of how these transcriptions were made as well as to compare the work of different transcribers in different regions.

While the Voyant software was relatively easy to use, it worked much better after I downloaded it to my computer rather than just using the online version.   Although my background is not in graphing, I did find the information helpful.