Viral Texts: Mapping Networks of Reprinting in 19th-Century Newspapers and Magazines



As Co-PI on this project, I have some role in every aspect of it: planning, grant seeking, oversight of graduate and undergraduate research assistants, refinement of the text analysis tools developed by my CS collaborators, analysis of data derived from text mining in GIS and Gephi, design of the public database for our results, and literary-historical analysis of the findings. These roles are harder to break out than in the Our Marathon entry, but I would like to highlight a few aspects of the project:

First, we have secured significant grant funding, including a $50,000 internal research grant from Northeastern University and a $59,805 Start-Up Grant from the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities. We are also part of a just awarded a (not yet publicly announced) $500,000.00 Mellon Grant which will support the development of a suite of tools for identifying patterns of duplicate texts in large-scale text archives.

Next, we have made significant progress toward developing a public database to share the clusters of reprinted texts we have identified, as well as extensive annotations of the reprinted texts and the newspapers from which they are drawn.Google Chrome

Several articles have been published or will soon be published from our early findings. Most recently, I have just had an article accepted with minor revisions for American Literary History. I am making these final revisions now, but would be happy to provide a draft of that (or any other listed) paper at the committee’s request.

Project Publications

  • “Reprinting, Circulation, and the Network Author in Antebellum Newspapers,” Ryan Cordell, accepted with revisions at American Literary History
  • “Viral Textuality in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Newspaper Exchanges,” Ryan Cordell, forthcoming in Virtual Victorians, ed. Veronica Rose Alfano and Andrew Stauffer, Palgrave MacMillan
  • “Detecting and Evaluating Local Text Reuse in Social Networks,” Shaobin Xu, David A. Smith, Abigail Mullen, and Ryan Cordell; in the Proceedings of the Joint Workshop on Social Dynamics and Personal Attributes, Association for Computational Linguistics, 2014
  • “Infectious Texts: Modeling Text Reuse in Nineteenth-Century Newspapers,” David A. Smith, Ryan Cordell, and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, in the Proceedings of the Workshop on Big Humanities, IEEE Computer Society Press, 2013

We have also been invited to talk about this project around the country, and to a wide range of audiences. I’ve embedded a video of the most recent such talk, as part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Humanities Forum, below.

Finally, this project has generated significant public interest as well. In addition to speaking about the work at places such as Buzzfeed, we have received significant press coverage, including an interview with WNYC’s On the Media.

Selected Press Coverage

More screenshots: