Linguistic Analysis of the 1st March Forum Event: Initial Comparisons with 2nd November
This post reports on the linguistic analyses that have been carried out on the transcribed recordings of the two instalments of The New Optimists’ Forum, which were held on 2nd November 2011 and 1st March 2012, and centred on the theme of Food and Cities.
The first part of the analysis involved the use of Wordsmith Tools (Scott, 2008), a piece of corpus analysis software that generates wordlists (i.e. gives frequencies for each word that occurs in the text), and allows the researcher to observe how a specific search word behaves in context in a given set of texts.
For the visualisation of the wordlists I used IBM ManyEyes, a freely available platform which allows for a variety of visualisation types based on textual or numerical data sets uploaded by the researcher. The word cloud below gives an overview of the most frequent lexical items in the March conversation.
Common function words were discarded with the use of a stop list, as they do not assist in building a picture the content of the conversation.
Comparing this to the November equivalent (see my earlier blog entries), we can see that overall the content is fairly similar.
A central focus on food is expected given the topic, as is the occurrence to a lesser extent of Birmingham, Midlands, years and time. Indications that these conversations occur in the context of projecting or predicting the future appear in the form of words relating to knowledge state, such as think and know, although it should also be borne in mind that these items are frequent in conversation in such constructions as ‘y’know’.
Further evidence of the ‘scenario’ context appears with items like work (as in solution x will/will not work) and change, and with modality markers – those items that express degrees of certainty or likelihood – such as probably and actually (see my next entry).
Where the two conversations do appear to differ is in the central themes around food. The visualisations below display the items that occur most frequently one position to the right of food in the November and March conversations respectively.
As these figures demonstrate, the key food theme for the participants in November was that of education, and to a lesser extent the interrelated issues of supply, production and ditribution, followed by the (again closely interrelated) concepts of prices, costs and economics.
The picture for March is quite different, with food production dominating the talk, followed by supply and waste, all of which had a significantly smaller part to play in the November event.
Furthermore we have the new additions of culture and chain, which did not feature in November at all. It is possible that these differences reflect the differences in academic backgrounds of the participants at the two events: while November’s participants included sociologists, computer scientists and nutritionists, the March meeting featured geographers, epidemiologists, horticulturalists and animal biologists.