Author: Benjamin Leblanc

On Voyant

After having read Walden and used voyant tools I have developed a greater appreciation for Thoreau and his devotion to living life deliberately. There is no better way to visualize this than through the trends tool on voyant. If one looks closely at the trends tool one would see that the most popular word other than “like” is “man”, shortly followed by “life”. The word that peaked my interest was “pond”, because if “man” was everything that signified civilization, then pond was everything that signified life in the woods. There are a few interesting connections I would like to make between the words man, life and pond. The first observation being that in the beginning of the book man and life are closely connected while pond is hardly ever mentioned. This tells me that at the very beginning the idea of being a man, and being part of civilization defined what it meant to live, and the fact that pond was low mean that Thoreau had yet to learn how to live deliberately. As the book progresses three major things begin to happen. The first thing is that the ideal of manhood takes a giant plummet and loses importance. While man began to plummet, pond began to rise in importance. And finally, throughout the book life remained moderately low in importance. From this I was able to deduce the following: as Thoreau struggled to find his place between civilization and life in the woods, “man” and “pond”, the purpose of life became more and more ambiguous and thus lost importance. What is even more interesting was that a general trend in the book was that the importance of man and pond had an inverse relationship. When man was at its highest, pond was at its lowest, and vice versa. I interpreted this as Thoreau’s struggle to find a happy medium between living life in the woods and everything that he used to know. And lastly, the resolution to all of Thoreau’s struggles can be seen in the end of the trend chart, where one can see the union between life, man and pond. And I think that this is the best visual representation of living life deliberately and in the woods. By the end of the book there is only a 7 point difference between pond, life and man, where in the beginning there is a 44 point difference. In the end Thoreau was able to successfully live life in the woods and accomplish hat he set out to do. I believe voyant tools played a major role in better understanding the significance of Walden.


On Revising

When it comes to revising I try to do as little of it as possible. I like to keep my work as close to the original as I can, even if that means grammar mistakes and all. I attribute this to being lazy. To say that I do not revise all together would be a lie. Only time I revise is when my professionalism is on the line (i.e. work emails), that does not include school work. I also may consider revising seriously when I am creating something that may reach the mass audience and my integrity is on the line with those that do not know my well. My style of revising is: catch it the first time, if not its lost forever. I try not to re-read my work. This often leads to many confused responses from my family and friends who cannot decipher my texts. I know that this is a poor practice but the truth is that I’ve never lost much from not revising and so I will continue to not revise. When I consider revising I only think grammar and spelling. As far as content goes, it is usually fine straight off the bat. When it comes to school assignments I usually procrastinate and wait for the pressure to pile up so that I am on edge and think more critically, i.e. why I am doing this post at 11:30. That being said, for school assignments such as essays I usually write a full draft and call it quits. Whatever is on the paper is what will be turned in. Because I am so apposed to revision, I do most if not all of my writing work on a computer. Thus leaving it up to more intelligent device to catch all of my poor grammar and spelling mistakes. Though it may be convenient for grammar and spelling mistakes, I often lose my work because I forget to safe my work, and that is a great inconvenience. Since the discovery of Google Docs I try to do most of my work there, but I simply hate the interface, I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I have also resorted to uploading my work onto Dropbox now that I know better. something that is interesting about my revision practice is the message that I think it sends, that message being that you should never let perfection be the enemy of good enough.

On Annotating

In general, as a student I am not one to annotate, so one when it comes to writing in books, the short answer is that I do not, at all. As an outsider, the idea of a colorful annotated book, with color coded content is intriguing, however my brain just does not work this way. Only time I would ever be caught writing in books would be if I were to be forced to, i.e. a homework assignment or something of that nature. That being said, in the rare circumstance were I do find myself being forced to write in books I tend to abuse the skill of underlining and usually just resort to writing brief summaries next to each paragraph to make sure I got the jist of the content. For the most part I depend on the always handy summarizing and paraphrasing skills to make sure I understand what I am reading. This also comes in handy when I have to write about whatever I read later because I can just rewrite what I already wrote on the margins. When I write on the margins, I tend to write to myself and depend on a newly composed language of my choice as I see fit. As long, as I can understand it, it is all good. In hindsight, only time I genuinely annotate out of my own free will would be on my second run through the book. The first time, I read solely to understand the content and this takes me very long so, to take my time to annotate would not be time efficient. However, if assigned an assignment where I have to gather evidence or quotes, or do a word count of a specific word I will use annotating. I will dog-ear pages, and circle words, and highlight sentences, but I do all of this not out of pleasure or as a means for better understanding, but rather necessity and data gathering. I can only annotate once I know what I am annotating for, or already have an objective in mind, I cannot annotate blindly because I’ll just highlight the entire book from start to finish. Quickly touching upon, other people annotations, I simply do not find much use in them, I never even consider looking at them. I think this is for two reasons. The first reason is that I don’t think that anybody thinks the way I do so I do not think I will find anything useful in their annotations. The second reason has to do with my subconscious, being that because I know I annotate in my own language and in poor handwriting, I just assume everyone else does as well, so I do not think I could possibly understand their annotations if I wanted to. Lastly, when it comes to digital archives or PDFs, i approach annotating the same way I approach physical materials, I only annotate the second time around, when I am looking for something specific. I do however really enjoy the use of the search tool; makes finding words and making connections just so much easier, instead of having to re-read everything. All that being said, regardless of whether it be a new or used copy, or a physical book or an online file, annotation is not my cup of tea, and would not do it unless i absolutely had to.