Author: Jess Goldstein

Group 6- Text Analysis

In our analysis of Walden, we utilized Voyant tools to enhance our understanding of the text. Voyant tools features  tracking options and offers the ability to strip filter words from the text. By making key words more accessible, readers may focus more on words that give insight into Thoreau’s thoughts and their evolution throughout the text of Walden. First, we re-read portions of Walden that fascinated us. Then, we used the helpful features of Voyant tools to analyze these chapters of Walden individually, and then pieced together word trends that related to the topics each of us chose to explore.

The chosen topics were frequency of religious words, frequency of positive words, frequency of experiential words and positive and negative correlations throughout Walden as a cohesive text. The graph tool showed us where words were more or less frequent throughout the text and let us infer how that conveyed Thoreau’s message of living deliberately. We could see where words that may have not been used before and then were suddenly utilized. These red flags keyed us into searching for Thoreau’s moments of enlightenment and discovery. Voyant tools helped us to thoroughly analyze the text beyond our own comprehension of language. We tend to look at the message of the text, not the particles that make it up, and the small bits actually brought new information about Walden and Thoreau to light. Utilizing Voyant allowed us to incorporate statistics into our research so our results were no longer just opinion, but irrefutable data to back our opinions.

Our first day toying with Voyant, we removed all the filter words. After removing all filter words, “life” and “man” are the most prevalent words in Walden as a whole. Reading Walden, it is clear that he is a man on a mission: to live life to the fullest. But now, we can  give substantial mathematical support to enhance understanding of Thoreau’s search for greater meaning. Each group member followed their own path, but we were ultimately able to see how our individuals aspect of text analysis conveys Thoreau’s philosophy of living life deliberately.

 

Do You Really Need To Post That?

When you walk down the street what do you see? The sun shining through the leaves along the sidewalk, a hint of a breeze flutter through a woman’s hair, two friends reuniting after a long separation. Or are you even looking up at all? These days most of what I see when I am walking around is people disconnected from the world around them. Instead there are men and women walking around with their heads down and eyes staring into the florescent light of a cell phone screen. It’s a fact that technology has become a very strong presence in the world today and we have seen many great things come from it. Now if a kid is abducted the police can track him with the cell phone that is on him, or the fact that soldiers who come home from overseas with lost limbs have a chance or regaining what they lost. We can watch the sun rise on Mars and a woman who has been deaf her whole life can now hear her child’s voice for the first time. Technology is a beautiful thing, and we need it, but with something great there is always a limit, some act of self-control that is necessary.
Although there are great aspects of technology there are of course some disadvantages that accompany the perks of doing things electronically, the greatest disadvantage being the disconnection of people from the world around them. Technology has become such a large part of our world now that some people have chosen to live in a virtual world instead of try to connect with the real one. Instead of taking the time and energy to struggle through school people can get degrees even PhD’s online. Kids are spending hours playing video games with their friends instead of going outside and enjoying the fresh air. Technology is destroying human communication; people are slowly losing the urge and ability to speak to other people face to face instead of through a screen. Now this may make me sound like I was born in the 1920’s, preaching to little kids about how “back in my day” we couldn’t go online and use the land line at the same time, but after doing some research one would have to agree that there is a problem here, maybe not with all people but with a large part of the human population. In an article by Carolyn Gregoire for the Huffington Post, she writes about the decline in eye contact and how it is connected to the increase in digital use. “An adult makes eye contact between 30 and 60 percent of the time in a typical conversation” she writes “but emotional connection is built when eye contact is made during 60-70 percent of the conversation. In other words, the less eye contact, the less of a connection is made”.

How Technology Is Killing Eye Contact

Possibly the greatest improvement that we have experienced in our daily lives with technology is the different ways we can keep in touch. When we meet people we like or friends with whom we wish to stay in contact with or even those with whom we have lost contact, Facebook aids us in making sure we keep those people in our lives. Of course, there is such a thing as over doing something. “The Anti- Social Network” is a short film on YouTube that explores the idea of taking Facebook too far, and how it affects the way you connect with people in your life. There is a big difference between connecting with people on Facebook and spending your whole life telling those people what you are doing. We all have one of those friends who posts everything they are doing on Facebook every five minutes. There is something that can be said for maintaining some level of privacy.

I am of course guilty of all the things I discussed in this post. I myself friend people on Facebook and sometimes there is a lack of eye contact in my daily conversations. I check my phone to see if I have any new text messages, and when I’m feeling like a true techie I might even take a picture of my food if it looks really good. I am not trying to say that technology is the enemy and that the Terminator movies are based on the future of our world. What I am saying is yes, technology is amazing, but we all need to learn how to have it in our lives without letting it dominate our lives. Sometimes it’s good for us to just be able to sit and not do anything but think, or to have a conversation with the cute guy on the bus instead of texting about him to a friend. We all have a timer on how long we get to be on this planet, and when we are connecting ourselves to the wrong world we lose the precious time that we are given in the right world. So the next time you take your phone out to snap pictures of that beautiful sunset from the gazebo, or tweet about the cute girl you saw in the library, stop. Enjoy those last rays of sunshine before they disappear behind the mountains, ask that girl about the book about coffee she’s reading and ask her if she wants to grab a cup. Think of it this way. Life is a cup of tea and technology is the sugar. You want a cup of tea, not a cup of sugar. Let technology do what it was made for, that is to act as an aid throughout life, not a chauffeur.

Did Thoreau Have Asperger’s?

While reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, there are of course many different thoughts running through the readers mind, mainly “Thoreau, what is your problem”? Throughout Walden, the voice of Thoreau comes off as pretentious and egotistical as he explores the benefits of experiential learning and living deliberately.  He tends to obsess over the same idea or concept for chapters at a time and has demonstrated the least bit of interest in any sort of social contact.  Most people would write Thoreau off as an odd, prude man whose life’s motto is “my way or the highway”, but perhaps there is another explanation for Thoreau’s blunt and elitist manner.

Asperger’s Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that differs from other autism disorders in that Asperger’s does not affect linguistic and cognitive development. Characterized mostly by a lack of social skills and fixations on topics or activities, Asperger’s affects 200K to 3M US citizens per year. People with Asperger’s usually have a hard time experiencing empathy and reacting to social cues. They also tend to stick to inflexible schedules or mentalities and tend to excel in academics. One of the biggest problems a person with Asperger’s faces is a sort of “social dyslexia”. In a documentary about Asperger’s, David Jordan, a man who has Asperger’s, describes how difficult it is to connect to people unless he is discussing a topic he is really interested in. However, even then, the conversation is no longer a conversation, but more of him talking and the other person listening.

When looking at the symptoms of Asperger’s and the personality traits seen in Thoreau’s Walden side by side, it becomes apparent that Asperger’s could possibly be a syndrome Thoreau himself lived with. It would explain why Thoreau comes off as an antisocial rude man and why he was so comfortable living in the woods by himself for so long. For example, when meeting the Baker family in the chapter “Baker Farm” in Walden, Thoreau comes off as racist when describing the family, how they live, and what they look like. Another example can be seen in the chapter “Reading” from Walden in which Thoreau discusses at length the benefits of being an adventurous learner and what that means. In “What’s Your Fucking Problem Henry Thoreau?”, an article for The Daily Kros, a woman with Asperger’s explores the similarities between herself and Thoreau, saying she never understood why she connected with the American writer until her diagnosis. She offers an interesting insight into Thoreau and the similarities between Thoreau and Asperger’s.

What’s Your Fucking Problem Henry Thoreau?

While there is a strong possibility that Thoreau could have had Asperger’s, this isn’t an excuse or pass for Thoreau’s behavior. Although there are a lot of personality traits that Thoreau exhibits in Walden that correlate with Asperger’s, many people who have Asperger’s are not as rude as Thoreau seems to be in his novel. When Thoreau wrote Walden, there weren’t as many sources for people with Asperger’s, so Thoreau would not have been able to improve his social skills as he would have been able to do today so that could be an explanation for why he differs in some behavioral aspects. Basically we will never know if Thoreau actually did have Asperger’s, we can only speculate. But in speculating that does not take away from Thoreau’s beliefs, actions, or opinions; it simply gives us a peephole into who Thoreau really was and a possible explanation for his words and actions.