Lit 80, Fall 2013
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Literature as Data

October 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Shane Stone in Uncategorized

Although it offers benefits, the idea of analyzing literature as big data has become a controversial issue. The most volatile aspect of the issue is whether or not literature is data. If data is defined as information, then everything, including literature is data. It is because data has a connotation of codes and numbers, that academics like Stephen Marche suggest that this is “the end of books as we know it.” However, by viewing literature as data and analyzing as such, it is more like what Kim suggested in class, this is the “expanding of books as we know it.” Looking at literature from a different point of view is encouraged in all literature classes because to many the importance of literature lies in what it represents and how people understand it. If this is the case then why are some academics up in arms about looking at it from the scope of a computer? Perhaps if distant reading were explained as macroanalysis, as suggested by Matthew Jockers, people would be more at ease. Through his definition, treating literature as data creates a school of thought that compliments reading; like how macroeconomics compliments microeconomics so too would macroanalysis compliment close reading.

One of the aims of this class is show us how different forms of media change the way we experience written work, thereby augmenting reality. Similarly, using different media in analyzing written work is another way of augmenting reality. It not that the literature is changing, but rather what can be gained from it has been augmented to enhance the learning experience.

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