Using NewRadial with Literary Texts: The Case of Hamlet

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in Blog, Modeling/Prototyping, Projects

[Submitted by Stephen MacNeil]

In working toward determining an effective means that NewRadial can be expanded to work with literary texts I have decided to start with a single literary text, and if it works out then use that model and apply it to other texts. The text I have chosen is William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I think the general familiarity with the play, opposed to a more obscure text, helps convey ideas about how to approach working with words within NewRadial. Further, my familiarity with the text stems from my undergraduate honours thesis where I spent months reading and researching it.  The structural acts of a play make it easier for me to conceptualize ways of breaking down text within NewRadial’s unique visual field.

What makes the play an ideal format for working with text within NewRadial is its compartmentalized nature. A play is divided into acts, scenes, and lines of character dialogue. In terms of NewRadial’s interface, each element of the play can exist on a macro level in the form of an act node, which can then be atomized further into new radials and nodes representing scenes and lines of dialogue. This, for now, is the idea going forward. Instead of a default display consisting of a radial of individual pages, each work will initially be contained within a single node. Upon double-clicking on that node, the acts of the play will be revealed in a different radial. Upon further clicking on each act, a radial of scenes, then characters, and finally individual lines of dialogue are exposed as users keep exploring the nodes and radials. Establishing this framework will allow us to move forward with giving users  an environment to make connections between passages, scenes, or acts, all represented as nodes (see conceptual design image below). A core aspect of NewRadial’s functionality is to give its users the ability to make connections and this design will keep that intact through various scales or layers of specificity.

Even if we are able to support plays within NewRadial’s interface, there are still differences between the format of a play and other genres such as poetry or prose that need to be considered if we are to create a model which can adopt a variety of texts. For instance, there may be other problems that arise when applying the interface model that works for a play, to say a novel which is broken up into chapters and pages containing large amounts of prose. There is a danger of overlooking some of the simplest solutions by preemptively trying to solve too many future problems in trying to accommodate all the various styles or formats within NewRadial at the same time. Starting with one textual genre in order to demonstrate how NewRadial will work with words within the application’s unique interface is important in order to create a foundation for other word-based databases. What makes the play an ideal format to proceed with is that if we are successful in our efforts for a play to work within NewRadial then, in principle, other textual formats should be somewhat easier given the ground work put in place. Our goal is that NewRadial will work with any number of textual formats and allow for new methods of research and collaboration within a variety of disciplines.

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