Complexity Explorer Santa Few Institute

Foundations & Applications of Humanities Analytics (Spring 2023)

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2.1 Introduction to Humanities Analytics » Test Your Knowledge: Explanations

Q1. Which of the following predictions did the Old Bailey example consider in most detail?

(A) features of the indictment predicting the verdict (guilty/not guilty)
(B) features of court transcripts predicting features of the indictment
(C) features of court transcripts predicting the verdict (guilty/not guilty)
(D) features of court transcripts predicting features of the participants

Correct Answer: (B)  The primary analysis looked for how different features of the court transcript – in particular, different word types – did or did not predict a key feature of the indictment – in particular, whether or not the indictment was for violent crime or not.

(A) This would be an interesting study, and in fact there is a lot of predictive power between an indictment and verdict – for example, sex offenses have much lower conviction rates – but this was not the analysis undertaken in the Old Bailey study presented.

(C) This analysis was attempted by the authors of the Old Bailey study it turned out to be less interesting than one might think: the court transcript reveals information about the indictment, and different indictments have different verdicts, so it’s apparent that "court proceedings > indictment > verdict" is a two-stage signal process, and the first stage seems more interesting.

(D) The predictive power of court transcripts in describing the trial participants has not not yet been studied, but a research group is using the transcripts to look at social class. An example of the kind of question that group is trying to ask is, “How does a servant talk when presenting evidence, as compared to how a duchess talks?”

Q2. Which of the following describes a difference between the pattern-recognition methods for Russian diary entries and French Revolution speeches?

(A) The Russian diary entries pattern-recognition method assigns each entry to a single pattern; the French Revolution speeches clustering assigns each entry to a combination of patterns.

(B) The Russian diary entries pattern-recognition method uses the diary text to determine the pattern, while the French Revolution speeches uses both the text of the speech and information about the speaker.

(C) The Russian diary entries pattern-recognition method uses information about the date/year of the entry, which the French Revolution speeches uses only text of the speech.

(D) There are no essential differences between the two pattern recognition methods.

Correct Answer: (A)  The speeches are assigned to a combination of patterns (e.g., a speech might be “50% pattern #2, 25% pattern #15, 25% pattern #29"). This is useful because it enables us to study how speeches combine different ideas, and provides a more nuanced measure of how imitation and novelty work (e.g., it allows us to say that a new speech is “somewhat novel”, if it copies only a subset of the patterns of the previous speeches).

(B) & (C) These present alternate ways to study the two corpora. The authors of the study chose pattern-recognition methods that were blind to date or speaker identity, because the authors were interested in whether patterns of speech might predict these other features. If the pattern-recognition method used the information about date or speaker, then it wouldn’t be a surprise if e.g. Robespierre was associated with pattern #12 if “being spoken by Robespierre” was part of the criteria for assigning a speech to pattern #12.

(D) The examples described used different methods, but there might be good reasons to use the same pattern-recognition method across multiple studies. Among other things, it makes cross-comparison possible. In work on modern day parliaments, the study's authors have used the same methods as the French Revolution speeches to ask questions such as, “Who is the Robespierre of 21st Century Serbia?”

Q3. In the French Revolution speeches example, what is a similarity between Robespierre and the character Animal from the Muppets?

(A) Both Robespierre and Animal are ambitious and protean members of an elite group, shifting their identities in response to changing conditions and gradually taking on increasingly extreme positions, driving both the French Revolution and the Muppet Show into what is colloquially known as “The Terror”.

(B) Both Robespierre and Animal are examples of Rousseau’s “noble savage”, showing, by contrast with those around them, the ways in which society both corrupts and saddens us.

(C) Both Robespierre and Animal are “novel” in the ways they participate in a sequence of speeches. They tend to say things that follow patterns not previously seen in the recent context.

(D) Both Robespierre and Animal are only literary creations of their culture; neither corresponds to a real, existing historical character, but were created by a cabal that retrospectively introduced them into the narrative for political reasons.

Correct Answer: (C) There are a number of differences between Robespierre and Animal, but their propensity to novelty is a key similarity. As discussed, while both have high novelty compared to the speakers prior to them, Robespierre introduces patterns to a debate that others subsequently imitate. Meanwhile, nobody really imitates Animal; he interrupts discourse with his novelty, but people try to get back on topic. Another difference: Animal’s pattern range is much smaller – he mostly says "arrrrrr" – while Robespierre uses a far greater variety of patterns during a debate.

(A) This answer may well describe Robespierre, but it is incorrect to describe Animal as “protean” and “adjusting to circumstances”. Animal’s political identity over the course of the Muppet Show is reasonably constant; in the words of the cartoon theme song, “Animal [’s principle contribution to the Muppet Show is the practice of] Dance”.

(B) While Robespierre was clearly engaged with major figures of the Enlightenment, is it incorrect to say that he instantiated any one of the archetypal characters that they introduced to his culture.

(D) While some have suggested the existence of an “Animal Effect”, corresponding to the internet meme of the “Mandela Effect”, we have good documentary evidence that Robespierre actually existed.