CWRCshop2 (Ryerson): Using Voyant for Analyzing Texts

This is a script for a workshop on using Voyant for the CWRC community.

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Using a single Voyant Tool: Cirrus

Voyant Tools has a number of different tools that can be composed into skins or used individually. We will start with just one tool called Cirrus that can then spawn other tools. We will try it with Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Cirrus (Austen’s Persuasion): (backup)

The Cirrus tool shows you a word cloud of high frequency words. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • What words did you expect? What words are missing? What words are interesting?
  • How does the tool arrange words and choose colours? Is there any correspondence between size and frequency?

Here are some more Cirrus visualizations to consider:

These types of word clouds are prevalent from academia to advertising – they quickly provide an intriguing representation of a text, as demonstrated by this example of studying gendered languages in toy advertising. But they’re ability to rapidly convey a picture with words comes at the cost of information reduction, and some are highly critical of word clouds as hermeneutical tools. What do you think?

Try It: Try clicking on a word. It will launch a second tab or window with a list of the texts in the corpus with the frequency of the word you clicked on.

Try It: Now try double-clicking on one of the texts. This should launch another tab or window with a Key Word In Context (KWIC) of the word in that text.

3.0 Using a Reading Skin

Voyant Tools can also be composed into “skins” that combine tools as panels so that they can be used interactively. Here is the same Austen corpus in a simple skin: (backup)

In this skin clicking in one window will often (but not always) update other windows. Try the following:

  • Triggering: Click on words in the Cirrus word cloud. Then click on a text in the Word Trends and play with the KWIC.
  • Changing Settings: Try changing the settings for the Cirrus by clicking on the small gear icon. Try playing with the Word Trends
  • Showing and Hiding Panels: Try showing and hiding panels using the small up and down arrows in the upper-right of the panels.

When in doubt just restart the session by hitting refresh.

4.0 Using Voyant on You Own Text

Voyant Tools can be used on your own text or corpus. To do that you go to the simple URL for the tool:


Just the Cirrus tool in Voyant:

Backup version:

You will get panel that asks you for a text. You can provide:

  • One or more URLs to texts on the web
  • Upload a text or a zipped collection of texts
  • Upload plain text, HTML, or XML texts
  • Upload a PDF (and Voyant will try to extract the text)

Voyant is forgiving, but there are none-the-less bugs.

Note that you can create a persistent URL for your corpus – that way your link can be shared or bookmarked and you won’t need to reload the texts into Voyant. Click the save icon in the blue bar at the top and the first URL will be the link for your Voyant corpus.

5.0 Other Stuff