Three Types of Visualization Software: Voyant, kepler.gl, 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.

kepler.gl 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, kepler.gl 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.

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