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Close readings of big data: Triangulating patterns of textual reappearance and attribution in the Caledonian Mercury, 1820-1840

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journal contribution
posted on 01.06.2018, 08:20 by Melodee BealsMelodee Beals
This essay demonstrates how the iterative use of close and distant reading with historical newspapers can provide new and complementary evidence of the role of scissors-and-paste journalism, or reprinting, in the spread of news content. Using Gale's nineteenth-century British newspaper collections, this paper suggests how best to read the evidence of duplicated content obtained through text mining and explores the extent to which this level of analysis can distinguish between different editorial or production styles. Delving into a close reading of the Caledonian Mercury between 1820 and 1840, this study then tests hypotheses about word count and publication frequency developed through distant reading and determines its most common editorial structures. The study concludes with an exploration of how to extrapolate conclusions from close readings to support a more nuanced understanding of the results of large-scale textual analyses. Overall, it argues that iterative testing through both big data and close reading methodologies, a so-called middle-scale analysis, provides a better method for understanding the ambiguous and shifting structures of nineteenth-century newspapers as well as the points of connection between them.

History

Department

  • Politics and International Studies

Published in

Victorian Periodicals Review

Volume

51

Issue

4

Pages

616-639

Citation

BEALS, M.H., 2018. Close readings of big data: Triangulating patterns of textual reappearance and attribution in the Caledonian Mercury, 1820-1840. Victorian Periodicals Review, 51 (4), pp.616-639.

Publisher

Johns Hopkins University Press © The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date

15/04/2018

Publication date

2019-01-14

Notes

This paper was published in the journal Victorian Periodicals Review and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1353/vpr.2018.0046.

ISSN

0709-4698

eISSN

1712-526X

Language

en