Research

Mandala Browser

This is what I do.

The above image is from a research project I am developing with a professor in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta. An image of the program’s proper use and an explanation of its purpose is after the link.

The program is called the Mandala browser, as the concept for its design is based on the Mandala diagram, common in many cultures most notably Buddhism and Hinduism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala). Anyways, it is a way to search and view texts that are encoded in a consistent xml style. Shakespeare’s plays, for example.

In the image below an xml file containing the texts of Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest has been loaded into the Mandala browser. You can search for specific speeches in the text by adding ‘magnets’ to the browser and assigning them a search value. The speeches of the plays are held in dots that can be attracted to magnets with the correct search value. In the image below the blue magnet attracts speeches spoken by the character “Prospero”, the green magnet attracts speeches found in “scene 3”, and the pink magnet attracts speeches that contain the word “sea”. The smaller, multicoloured magnets attract speeches that match more than one magnet.  It is also possible for the user to select one or more of the dots to view the text of the speeches in the lower right hand panel. Here is a link to a 1 minute video describing its use: http://www.ualberta.ca/~sruecker/mandala_demo.mov

The program is still unfinished. I’m fixing the bugs and adding some enhancements. The Mandala browser may not have so much use for the layman but it may help scholarly types spend more time being scholarly and less time being search engines.

Mandala 2

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6 Responses to Research

  1. Jamee says:

    Say what man?

  2. Microwave Incubation says:

    i liek it when u guyz put up pics wut is this this lol?

  3. Aja says:

    this is a science post. I said we needed more science posts and matt stepped up.

  4. umunmutamku says:

    I repeat: what you do, Matt, is fucking awesome. :)

    I would love to have such a tool for… oh… exploration of Homeric formulas, say. Or I wonder if you could get even more fine-grained with it and use it to assess combinatory tendencies in the vocabulary of corpus languages. That would be really useful in doing the philological groundwork on new dead languages like Tocharian and Hittite (which are still basically virgin territory, as far as that goes).

    This is also a work of art. (I can see it appearing on dataisnature.com… certainly also infosthetics.com.)

  5. Jackablade says:

    Thanks. I’m flattered.

    I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to look up everything you mentioned but I think if the work you’re speculating about could be done through properly structured xml documents then I don’t see why you couldn’t do any of the things you said. Suppose you have an xml document containing both The Iliad and The Odyssey and that this document tags the writing in a structured way (probably done by a researcher) that facilitates searching it for information. What the Mandala program would do is parse and index the document based on a user defined or preset parse query in the xpath language. If someone who knows the document well creates a proper xpath query then you should be able to use the program to do search for examples of the Homeric formula.

    Now, maybe I’m missing some of the subtleties of what you are dreaming of but given the correct document and a good parsing query I think what you want could be done.

    Also, I think infosthetics.com would be right up my supervisor’s alley. All I can shoot back with is theoreti.ca, which for some reason is a very slow site.

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