Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Many Eyes: A Tool For Proofreading?

James Tauber made me aware here of an online application by IBM called Many Eyes, a tool for creating and sharing visualizations of data. Since James has done a lot with Greek inflectional morphology, the visualization he created at Many Eyes is of dative plural masculine nominal endings in the Greek of the New Testament. Even though James's data is not a natural text composed of words, he has effectively used the "Word Tree" visualization on the Many Eyes site to show the patterns of letters that appear in various endings for masculine plural dative nominals in NT Greek.

The Many Eyes site describes the "Word Tree" visualization...
A word tree is a visual search tool for unstructured text, such as a book, article, speech or poem. It lets you pick a word or phrase and shows you all the different contexts in which it appears. The contexts are arranged in a tree-like branching structure to reveal recurrent themes and phrases.... A word tree is a visual version of a traditional concordance.
I am considering this online application as a tool for proofreading lengthy texts using the "Word Tree" visualization. I am nearly finished with an M.A. thesis that needs to be reduced. One way to reduce the thesis is to remove redundancies. If I upload the full text of my thesis onto the Many Eyes site, I could use it to find instances of repetitiveness in the thesis. Here is what Many Eyes turns up for a search of "noachic" in my previous M.A. thesis, "Noachic Allusion and Echo in James 3.1-12: Implicatures of New Creation Eschatology"...
One drawback for using the tool this way is that it can only show me potential redundancies where I have used the same word and not where I have used different words to express the same meaning. Another drawback would be that I would have to do searches for individual words and look at the visualizations for only those words in order to see where they occur in the same context. Which words would I check?

Nothing will prove more valuable for removing redundancies than a fresh reading of the text. However, in that reading, if I come across statements that sound a little bit too familiar, the Many Eyes tool may prove valuable for looking up specific words and quickly getting a visualization of how those words are used in context. One nice feature of the "Word Tree" visualization is that you can sort the results by occurrence order, frequency order, or alphabetical order. Frequency order would be the most useful for determining redundancies.

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