I will here evaluate the “Digging into the Global News” project, which is an extension of Cultural Analytics. In doing so, I will consider a few criteria: Immersiveness, Use of Information, Organization, and Accessibility. These are critical areas for a cultural analytics project to consider, given that its role is centered on the use of large amounts of data to present new findings or conclusions that would otherwise be hidden. Arlene Taylor gets at the importance of this undertaking. She addresses the inherent need to organize, which people seem to have across the board. Taylor says “we organize because we need to retrieve” (Taylor). This particular project is focused on the preservation and analysis of themes within the White House addresses, and does so in order to be able to access or retrieve those themes in the future.

First, the site does a fairly good job of immersing the viewer in the information. Clever visual illustrations are used to compare a large amount of white house speeches, their locations, content, topics, length, etc. This is why cultural analytics is critical to scholarship. Each graphic takes a screenshot of a speech, and stacks it against hundreds of others, creating a visual aid that even the untrained eye can decipher. It should be noted, however, that the site presents its information in one page, broken up by various lengths of text. This is perhaps more jarring to the reader than it needs to be.

Second, the website does a fairly good job of balancing the type of information being presented. There are nine key illustrations present, each one tackling a different aspect of the White House addresses. I have an issue with the actual organization, however. The most important illustrations are the ones related to the actual content of the speeches. For example, they effectively compute the frequency of foreign policy topics appearing in each address. This is the material that matters to the everyday American. It may be interesting to see how many times a fireplace or other physical backgrounds appears in the shot (as one aid depicts), but this is perhaps distracting to the most critical part of the site. The average reader may not stay on the site long enough to reach the information regarding speech topics and length. I would recommend moving this to the top of the site, allowing the reader to engage with what is perhaps the most important findings first.

Lastly, the site’s organization and accessibility leave something to be desired. The format is linear, with all information organized into a single page. Also, the site fails to load a new window when you click on a graphic. This is hindrance to the reader, as they have to backtrack each time they want to look at an image. Overall, the site’s premise and use of cultural analytics is excellent. However, I would suggest these organization and aesthetic changes in order to ensure that the reader benefits from the hard work that is evidently present in the project.

Works Cited:

Digging into Global News:

http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2011/09/digging-into-global-news.html

Irene Taylor: “Organization of Recorded Information”

 

-Jackson Graves

 

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