Voyeur is the suite of tools used by Hermeneuti.ca to interpret texts and to think about tools. You too can use Voyeur to analyze your own texts, to write essays with emebedded hermeneutical panels generated by Voyeur, and you can adapt the code to create your own versions of tool. This section of the Hermeneuti.ca web site is both a tutorial and a reference.
Voyeur is a new type of text analysis tool that you can use across the research cycle. You can:
Although text analysis tool developers might choose to highlight different aspects for their purposes (such as stand-alone software as opposed to web-based software), here are some of the primary design principles for Voyeur, as gleaned from other tools:
Though they have existed before to varying degrees in different tools, Voyeur is an attempt to pull together these design principles into a single a package. In some cases the the principles may in fact be contradictory in practice (for instance, supporting large-scale immediate analysis) and compromises must be found. Working through those challenges is one of the aspects that make Voyeur a worthy intellectual challenge.
HyperPo and TAPoRware are the tools with the strongest affinities to Voyeur.1, but we have devoted considerable thought and attention to improving existing web-based tools in ways further described below.
Scalability. Whereas HyperPo and Taporware can readily handle book-length texts for micro-analysis, both reach their practical limits when corpora grow to beyond a couple of megabytes. In contrast, Voyeur is designed to handle much larger corpora (dozens of megabytes and beyond). There is still a practical (though undefined) limit to the size of corpora for Voyeur given that it seeks to enable immediate micro-analysis, but the Voyeur architecture is desiged with scale in mind. There will always be a tension between indexing speed and retrieval speed: the more time is available for indexing, the faster retrieval tends to be. As such, text analysis tools that require pre-indexing (Philologic, Monk, etc.) will almost always operate faster because pre-processing can be done over the course of hours or even days (building very large relational databases, for instance). In contrast, Voyeur seeks to strike a balance between indexing and retrieval speed: ideally both should happen in a timeframe that seems reasonable in a web-based contextIn text analysis, context refers to the text surrounding a string of characters, which may be as short as a word or as long as a paragraph. Context is particularly important when generating a concordance for a string. Return to Glossary.. The ever-evolving pace of computing power and the promise of high performance computers obviously make the actual capabilities a moving target.
Ubiquity. As useful as text analysis tools like HyperPo and Taporware may be, we recognize a need to allow content providers and producers (like bloggers) to quickly and easily integrate functionality into their own space. The previous model was limited to users bringing their own texts to our tools, we now wish to also allow users to also bring our tools to their texts. In some cases users will wish to have static results, in which case we can provide a mechanism for easily copying and pasting results that can be directly embedded in other content. However, much of the most compelling functionality of Voyeur is interactive and requires considerable client-side scripting: our current approach is to provide a tiny snippet of HTMLHTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is a language used in web development to make a text readable by web browsers. HTML is primarily formed of paired elements, such as < body >< /body > or < p >< /p >, that apply some characteristic to the text within it. One pair of elements may be nested inside another like this: < body >< p >< /p >< /body > In this case, < body >< /body > marks the beginning and end of the body of the document, while < p >< /p > marks the beginning and end of a paragraph within the body. Elements may also be modified by attributes and attribute values: < p class="hangingindent" > In this case, the paragraph element has the attribute 'class' and the attribute value 'hangingindent'. Attribute/attribute value pairs are frequently used in combination with CSS to apply formatting to the text within the element. Return to Glossary. that is essentially an IFRAME that contains the necessary HTMLHTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, is a language used in web development to make a text readable by web browsers. HTML is primarily formed of paired elements, such as < body >< /body > or < p >< /p >, that apply some characteristic to the text within it. One pair of elements may be nested inside another like this: < body >< p >< /p >< /body > In this case, < body >< /body > marks the beginning and end of the body of the document, while < p >< /p > marks the beginning and end of a paragraph within the body. Elements may also be modified by attributes and attribute values: < p class="hangingindent" > In this case, the paragraph element has the attribute 'class' and the attribute value 'hangingindent'. Attribute/attribute value pairs are frequently used in combination with CSS to apply formatting to the text within the element. Return to Glossary. elements. This approach allows Voyeur code to remain separate from its host while satisfying security limitations of cross-browser scripting. There are of course other challenges inherent to code embedded elsewhere, including version management (supporting legacy syntax) and cacheing of data (both the corpus and results2).
Referenceability. The status of text analysis tools as academic resources has been a point of debate over the years. Scholars feel compelled to cite ideas and texts that come from other authors, but they are much less likely to recognized tools that have contributed to their work (and we would probably not want every scholar to cite search engines such as Google that have been used during research). We feel strongly that text analysis tools can represent a significant contributor to digital research, whether they were used to help confirm hunches or to lead the researcher into completely unanticipated realms. In any case, we have designed Voyeur to be conducive to citation in various ways, including a general citation to Voyeur and citations for static or dynamic results. An important component of academic knowledge is reproducibility, and providing scholars with more information on the processes followed during research – including the use of text analysis tools – is sure to be useful.
Ultimately, Voyeur is an attempt to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of past tools, to recognize current user needs (ex: working with much larger corpora), and to anticipate future practices (ex: referencing text analysis tools and results). We believe that the potential for tools in the interpretive process merits continual rethinking of tool design and functionality, and as such, Voyeur is of course a work in progress.