Wordle: Create text clouds from existing texts!

Wordle is a tool that I’ve recently discovered, and have been having a lot of fun using.

What’s cool about this application? The ability to generate a text cloud for a particular document or website; to reveal content of a digital text or web page through the  representation of re-occuring words by size. Words that are repeated most frequently will appear large, while other words that are used less often will be represented much smaller.

How can you use it? There are a lot of really neat functions! The first is its main ability to create text clouds for existing documents, websites, or blogs. That means you can upload the URL from your blog or add word documents (i.e. recipes, written work, resume, CV, etc!), and the program will read through the text to generate a word cloud. Next, you can modify its appearance, font type, colour, and if you don’t like the position of words (or any particular words you don’t want included), you can re-arrange and delete items in the Wordle.

Below I’ve put my CV/resume into Wordle. Click on the image to enlarge.

My Wordle'd CV

Another rad application is TextArc. This is a visualization tool that allows you to experience a text in a very nontraditional way. Since electronic text is digital (..duh), and consequently, far more malleable and transformational than a print counterpart, there are practically infinite ways to present the text of any piece of literature. Two examples that are available on the TextArc page are Hamlet, and Alice in Wonderland. The application displays all of the words (text) from each story, and as it is “read” (by generating text, line by line along the bottom of the screen), the words are highlighted within the large “cloud” of text in the centre of the screen. This can be useful, as there are thesauri, and other tools that one can use to better interpret and experience a text. Most essentially, TextArc is a cool application because of its visual appeal. You need to check it out! Watch one of the examples provided on the TextArc page. Below is a screen-shot of the Hamlet text.

TextArc: Alice in Wonderland

I’m really interested in applications such as Wordle and TextArc, because of my broader interests in digital humanities and the creation and uses of electronic texts. On May 5th, 2009 I participated at the fifth annual TRY (Toronto, Ryerson, York) Library Staff Conference, at St. Michael’s College, U of T. With the collaboration of my colleagues Marian Davies and Alison Callahan, we designed a poster to promote awareness of how libraries can support the digital humanities, entitled “Re:evolution_of_the_text”. This poster addressed definitions of the emerging field, how its applications and services fit, and are used within libraries, and finally, the forseeable roles that librarians can assume in the creation and proliferation of digital humanities projects. We also provided recommendations for librarians, particularly for training, advocacy, and becoming creators. To read more about this conference, click here. The abstract for “Re:evolution_of_the_text” can be read on the third page of my CV or on the TRY 2009 Poster Sessions descriptions page.


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