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Building Text-Analysis Tools for Literary Study, Mar 18

Marti Hearst is a professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley, with an affiliate appointment in the Computer Science Division. Her primary research interests are user interfaces for search engines, information visualization, natural language processing, and empirical analysis of social media. Hearst has recently completed a book on Search User Interfaces. Bryan Wagner is associate professor in the English Department and affiliated faculty in the American Studies Program at UC Berkeley. His primary research focuses on African American expression in the context of slavery and its aftermath, with secondary interests in legal history, cultural theory, and popular music.

Hearst and Wagner will discuss their National Endowment for the Humanities funded WordSeer project. This project began as an experiment by Ph.D. candidate Aditi Muralidharan asking how natural language processing and data visualization could be applied to the process of literary study. Two years and two NEH grants later, the team has expanded their goal from matching up computational linguistics algorithms with literary questions to the creation of a publicly available scholarly tool for the visual and algorithmic analysis of text.

A brown bag lunch conversation with Hearst and Wagner discussing lessons learned and the close collaboration, field- testing and detailed understanding of humanistic work processes that are necessary for tool builders to be successful.