Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Many Eyes Make Shakespeare Shallow?


Have we talked about this visualization tool from IBM in the past?  I don’t see it when searching my own archives, so many not.

The programmer side of my brain has always seen the complete works of Shakespeare as a vast set of data.  Word frequency and variety, character interactions, timelines…you name it.  Well IBM’s made us a nice tool for looking at all that stuff visually, and playing with it.  Some of it’s fairly well known, like a number of “Wordle” images (which I know we have talked about). 

But then you get to look at something like pie charts showing "kills" in each play.  Needs to be normalized, though – you’ve got Macbeth taking up almost his entire pie with 5, while Titus has more kills (6) but only gets half the pie.  So it’s a good visual indicator of who did the most killing per play, but it doesn’t tell you enough about which plays were bloodbaths.  Maybe something where the pie itself gets bigger, the higher the body count?

(* The title expression, if you don’t recognize it, is a twist on the open source programmer’s mantra “many eyes make all bugs shallow.”  It means that if you can get enough people to look at a problem, eventually the solution will be spotted by someone.  Given that this toy is from IBM’s Alphaworks group, I’m relatively sure that they had this in mind when naming it.)

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