Stylometry workshop in Amsterdam 2019

It has become a tradition for the stylometric community to organize a small get-together whenever a DH conference takes place near one of the labs. In 2014 the crowd had its meeting in the Australian wilderness of Wollombi near Newcastle, and in 2016 they enjoyed the mountain seclusion of Żabnica near Kraków. This year we met in the heart of the urban jungle, at Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), invited by the Riddle of Literary Quality team and Karina van Dalen-Oskam.
Stylometrists in the meeting

Karina van Dalen-Oskam opens the meeting. Photo by Tomoji Tabata

The meeting gathered some of the experts in the field and newcomers both from affiliated Federation of Stylometry Labs and ones pursuing solo stylometric projects. The workshop served as a great opportunity to get to know each other in a more relaxed setting and as an occasion for community building. Over the course of three days (15-17 July) we discussed our projects in development, good practices in the field and making it more accessible to newcomers, juggled ideas and enjoyed each other’s company over lovely dinners.
In relation to recent replication debates, we discussed the need for registering experimental setups as well as the exact shape of data (e.g. which particular editions were used, and what changes, such as normalization, introduced). While we noted the need for specifying the experimental setup in detail in advance, it was also observed that in practice we cannot foresee all the problems on our way and may need to adapt the method in the process.
Peter Boot presenting

Peter Boot presenting research on types of impact of text on readers.
Photo by Tomoji Tabata

We also discussed technical problems with working on digitized texts, especially historical ones – dealing with issues related to versioning, accuracy of preserved copies and search for the version closest to original intended by the author, lack of proper descriptions of digitized files in some collections – and the need for separating the development of reliable methods from answering actual research questions with a particular dataset.
Floor Buschenhenke presenting

Floor Buschenhenke discussing tracing how writers create.
Photo by Tomoji Tabata

Our interest was also sparked by a few more literary problems: the distinctiveness of authorial voice across various media (literary vs non-literary text, literature reviews, speech, audiovisual data) and manner of creating (e.g. typing oneself or dictating). Introducing the dimension of reader reception of literary texts to the discussion, researchers from Amsterdam addressed differences between stylometrists and readers in their perception of ‘style’, as well as the topic of stylistic development over time as observed in genetic criticism projects.
Finally, we also discussed the development of the Federation of Stylometry Labs and explored ideas for making it a more useful resource for aspiring stylometrists. You will notice the results of this discussion on our website in the upcoming months. This is surely of interest to SIG DLS members and observants, so stay tuned!
by Joanna Byszuk and Andreas van Cranenburgh

Distant Reading for European Literary History

A few months ago, our COST Action Distant Reading for European Literary History (CA16204) was approved and started running. Even more recently, our Working Group ‘Scholarly Resources’, aka its corpus backbone, met in Prague, for the first time! We are very excited about getting started and would like to briefly report on our work in this blog.

The COST Action Distant Reading has the goal to “develop the resources and methods necessary to change the way European literary history is written” (Memorandum of Understanding). To approach this goal, the Action’s Working Group ‘Scholarly Resources’ aims to create a big open source benchmark corpus of novels from 1850-1920, called ELTeC (European Literary Text Collection). During the course of the Action, we will examine ELTeC with different computational distant reading methods such as topic modelling, authorship attribution, network analysis, stylistic analysis, and different types of character analysis.

The Action’s Working Group ‘Scholarly Resources’ will coordinate the task of creating the ELTeC; It consists of members from all over Europe, from literary studies, computational and corpus lingustics, and from information science. The COST Action is a great opportunity to collaboratively work with researchers and bring together expertise for different languages as well as computational methods.

A challenging task has been defining the corpus selection criteria, a common annotation model and potential workflows for corpus creation for the ELTeC which can be applied to European novels from different languages as well as various publication contexts.

During our first Working Group meeting, we developed corpus selection and balancing criteria which follow a simple but consistent corpus design approach and represent the variety of novels in this period. Among other things, we do not want to solely rely on normative canon-based selection criteria and set a bias to our understanding of novels. The focus of the ELTeC encoding scheme is to uniformly represent historical novels from different languages with a basic TEI mark-up. The standard markup is necessary for applying different types of distant reading methods rather than representing the original text structure. ELTeC and the encoding scheme will be freely available at our GitHub Organization.

In this way, we would like to contribute a big chunk to the creation of a digital basis for cross-national and cross-language analysis of European literature!