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Seminar: Data Poetics (2014)
Judging a Book by its Characters
Laura Beutler-Rodriguez & Stefanie Schneeberger

What happens if we are dividing a book into it’s constituent parts? Sorting every letter, dot, comma, semicolon, question and exclamation mark? Mercilessly destroying a books structure is certainly destroying the readability of the text. But maybe we can read new things from the sorted characters? What are the differences between books of different genres like a novel, a dictionary and a drama? Not only the characters may differ also the amount of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs may. How can we estimate and visualize those differences?

All the above questions we tried to take a closer look at in our semester project.

We selected three books from different genres. The Chambers Dictionary, the novel ‚11/22/63’ by Stephen King, and the drama ‚Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare.

With the help of Processing and basil.js we analyzed and sorted the books' words and characters and visualized the different aspects in experimental ways.

As a result we created individual A1 prints for each of them, representing a different aspect of the differences between the choosen books.

So does dividing a book into its part make any sense? For us it does. We gained insights into the differences between the books, which we possibly wouldn’t if we followed more conventional approaches.