An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.

Mining the Second Enclosure Movement

by Zhiqiu (Cho) Jiang

While conceding that the paradigm of Open Data, coupled with other developments such as the Internet of Things, Text Mining and Machine Learning, indeed gives rise to changed sociotechnical formations. This tutorial builds on growing work in the field that deals with text and open computing for humanities in the digital age.

Text mining in the digital humanities usually refers to any process of analysis performed on a text dataset to extract information from it. Suppose you want to compare the frequency of the word “she” and “he” in the book The New Hampshire. Suppose you want to collocate these words with the phrases in which they were written and sort the results based on various factors — frequency, affective value, attribution, and so on. Text mining is regarded as a technique which will lead into advanced NLP (Natural Language Processing) techniques, which implies a breakthrough for achieving a higher level of AI (Artificial Intelligence) that have machines which can better understand and process textual data. There are quite a few tools that have been developed to perform analyses of unstructured texts. Text mining analyses include word counts, keyword density, frequency, and other methodologies to extract meaningful information in order to ask research questions. In this tutorial, we introduce the general structure of text dataset, available analysis tools, as well as two hands-on demonstrations using two datasets — The New Hampshire Corpus and The Copyright Documents Corpus — to show how we apply text mining into The Second Enclosure Movement. This tutorial seeks to provide a case study instead of a point-by-point hands-on tool instruction, if you would like to learn more about hands-on tools, please check the resources list at the end of this tutorial for more information.

1. Unstructured Text Dataset

It is noticeable that text datasets are usually unstructured. Unstructured text is generated and collected in a wide range of forms, including Word documents, email messages, PowerPoint presentations, survey responses, transcripts of call center interactions, and posts from blogs and social media sites. Unlike structured data, which conforms to a rigid format to ensure consistency in processing and analyzing it, the text data usually lacks metadata and cannot readily be indexed or mapped onto standard database fields. Therefore, a variety of work needs to be done to create workable data to make the computer can understand.

2. Tools

Basically, tools for text mining tend to fall into three categories: 1) programming languages from scratch solution, 2) open-sourced applications, and 3) other software.

2.1 Using Programming Languages from Scratch Solution

By programming applications, I refer to code written using programming languages such as Python, R, and high level programming languages like Java and C++. Among all of them, Python and R are the most popular languages for text mining, particularly for teaching. The barrier for entry here is higher, but users can control their projects more carefully.

2.2 Open-source applications

Many open source text analytics applications have basic capabilities that are easy to learn and use. Thanks to the sharing of open source products, there are lots of options to choose from. It may take a little more time to approach text analytics in this manner, but users can still get valuable results.

Here are some popular open-source applications for text mining. Each has its own set of features and capabilities, so consider each closely before making the commitment to rely on anyone tool. Fortunately, because they’re open source applications, meaning the source code is publicly accessible. Open-source applications are widely used for public nowadays, but not all of them are free to use, you need to check it out beforehand. Here are three free open-source application examples for textual data processing and analysis.


Cleaning unstructured text data is usually one of the most challenging and time consuming tasks involved in textual analysis. Openrefine is a data manipulation tool which cleans, reshapes, and intelligently edit messy and unstructured data. Specifically, it can be used to “clean” messy data, transform data, and query APIs and return the results. For example, users can use Openrefine to text mine a historical textual document and extract data from an XML file. These unstructured” data can be transformed it into a clean, simple, and easily ready (by humans and computers) format. OpenRefine will allow you to work with data with no computer programming skills in a user interface. Hands-on exercises are available at Github Openrefine Tutorials.

Voyant Tools

Voyant Tools is an open-source, web-based application for performing text analysis. It supports scholarly reading and interpretation of texts or corpus, particularly by scholars in the digital humanities, but also by students and the general public. It can be used to analyze online texts or ones uploaded by users.

Apache OpenNLP

Natural language processing (NLP) is a way for computers to examine and understand human speech and speech patterns, which is critical to text analytics. Apache OpenNLP is a tool set for machine learning — a system of learning that relies on pattern recognition. Machine learning is an essential element of text analytics that often allows organizations to learn from unexpected results from data because the analysis is not constrained by preconceived notions of what will be found. Instead, the tool learns patterns based on a volume of data.

It is noticeable that Apache OpenNLP is another open source application that was designed with ease-of-use in mind, but it doesn’t feature the graphical UI and so may require deeper programming capabilities to get up and running. As with other open source applications, however, there is a user community that’s always willing to help.

2.3 Other software

Commercial companies and sources also provide text mining computer programs. A list of software from WiKipedia can be found here.

3 Tutorials using Voyant Tools

Through different ways to explore the materials, this intervention seeks to provide tutorials for demonstrating the ways to mine the whole collection of The New Hampshire and The Copyright Documents Corpus that consists of the public domain legal documents relevant to the Copyright Term Extension Act (1998) by using Voyant Tools. Voyant Tools is a web-based reading and analysis environment for digital texts. You can paste or link to text and text corpus, and analyse and visualize the text in various ways. The following documentation give you an overview of the sorts of analysis and visualization you can do Voyant Tools Guide Page. These tutorials assume no prior knowledge or experience, but aim to empower the public to participate in the public domain and build projects for their own interests.

3.1 Mining The New Hampshire

3.1.1 The New Hampshire Corpus

The New Hampshire corpus provides easy access to a collection of the book itself. The poetry collection raw file used for this tutorial is downloaded from Project Gutenberg EBook of New Hampshire. Project Gutenberg currently provides around 58,000 e-books for legal download in the public domain. The process of finding a text is relatively simple, as you can search for book titles and authors on their site or browse the catalog by author, title, language and other categories.

Since the raw file is a poetry collection with the long poem “New Hampshire” and other 45 poems, a series of analyses can be done corresponding to different text corpus. For example, we can create one corpus including all the texts of the 46 poems for analyzing the themes from the whole book. We also can create a single corpus for each poem for comparing the word count and word frequency of each poem.

Analyses for the New Hampshire corpus include word frequency lists, frequency distribution plots, and KWIC (Key Word In Context) displays, etc. Through “reading” the individual poems, the analysis enables us to compare our assumptions about the text with the results from Voyant.

3.1.2 Word Cloud

The left word cloud plot displays the frequency of words appearing in the whole poetry collection while the right plot is only for the long poem “New Hampshire”.


For the whole poetry collection, it has 19,584 total words and 3,349 unique words. For the poem “New Hampshire”, it has 3,241 total words and 1,094 unique words. The most frequent words for each corpus are shown in the table below.

Corpus Word count Avg words per sentence Most frequent words
The whole poetry collection 19,584 18.8 like (62); know (53); say (50); said (49); new (43); don’t (40); make (37); way (36); day (34); night (34); paul (33); house (32); having (31); came (30); man (30); tell (30); door (29); thought (29); tree (29); good (28); left (28); let (28); old (28); come (27)
Poem “New Hampshire” 3,241 18.5 New (35); Hampshire (27); mountains (14); say (14); said (13); like (10); people (10); know (9); state (9); farm (8); choose (7); just (7); make (7); man (7); old (7); end (6); gold (6); little (6)

3.1.3 Word Contexts

We can notice from the table that the 14 appearances of word “mountains” (underlined in the table) in the long poem “New Hampshire”. This seems like an important image in Frost’s poems as his work exploring complex ideas through scenes and images of rural life. We can go further to look at the word contexts around the word “mountains” by using Contexts tool. The Contexts (or Keywords in Context) tool shows each occurrence of a keyword with a bit of surrounding text (the context). It can be useful for studying more closely how terms are used in different contexts. Of course, you could do all this with Python or R, but Voyant allows to get at similar analysis with a lower barrier to entry.

The chart below displays the occurrence of word “mountains” with poem “New Hampshire”. You can also use contexts tool with your own corpus.

By default, contexts are shown for the most frequent in the term corpus, you can click on the sliding bar to expand any given row to show more context.

Reading the contexts of “mountains”, we can quickly get a sense of the landscape grounded in the land and mountains of New England that Frost described in this poem. The farm of which he wrote in this poem is the property now known as the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire.

3.1.4 Mentioned Locations

Voyant Tools also provides an experimental tool for exploring the geospatial aspects of texts. Using the whole collection of poems, the locations mentioned in the texts are identified by the Dreamscape tool through reading city names, suggesting patterns of recurring connections between locations from the poems.

The chart below displays mentioned locations.

Generally, we could get an idea of overall geospatial context of this corpus from this tool. However, a primary weakness of Dreamscape tool is that it can only recognize about 75% of locations. In order to make the representativeness of the geo-context more accurate, it is better to use other methods for linking the places in the texts with the maps. The StoryMap intervention gives another example for this task. It is more involved, but ultimately more thorough.

3.1.5 Masculine and Feminine Words in these poems

Masculine words such as “He”, “Man”, and feminine words such as “She”, “Mother”, and “Woman” mentioned in these poems are shown in the left plot by the poem order of the book. The contexts of word “He”, which has been mentioned 179 times (“She” appeared 124 times), is displayed in the right plot.


It is easy to find that the word “He” and the word “She” both have high relative frequencies in the poem “Place for a Third”. If we take a closer look at this particular poem, we will find the link words that are associated with these two gender words. Link words represents the collocation of terms in a corpus by depicting them in a network through the use of a force directed graph. The frequency of the word in the link graphs below is indicated by relative size of the term.

“He” is more likely linked with “thought” while “She” is associated with “felt”. Both of them are linked with the character “Laban” and the verb “cared”.


Ever since the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, no published works have entered the public domain, but for the first time in 20 years in 2019 January, tens of thousands of books, films, visual art, sheet music, and plays published in 1923 are free of intellectual property restrictions, and the public can use them without copyright restriction. To celebrate the public domain growing in decades, we create a Copyright Term Extension Act Corpus and use topic modeling (one of text mining techniques) to discover the themes associated with a variety of government document types. For example, although legal documents such as “Hearing transcripts” and “Speeches” were subsets of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act documentations, they might have different main themes. This text mining demonstration illustrates that we can understand how certain words cohere into different themes by document type.

The Copyright Term Extension Act Corpus provide easy access to a collection of government documents that are associated with the S.505 - Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. This law, also known as the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998, extended copyright terms in the United States. It effectively “froze” the advancement date of the public domain in the US.

Specifically, this corpus include six single texts and each text represents one type of these government documents. They are (1) Bills; (2) Hearing transcripts; (3) Journals; (4) Laws; (5) CRS (Congressional Research Service) Reports; and (6) Speeches. Raw data is downloaded from congressional.proquest.com by searching keywords “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act”. Each corpus is prepared in plain text format based on the search results. Data used for this tutorial can be requested through emailing us at [email protected]

3.2.2 Topic Modeling for the CTEA corpus

This tutorial seeks to analyze the Themes / Topics that are associated with different types of government documents about CTEA through topic modeling. Topic modeling algorithms scan a corpus of documents, and then find sets of words that co-occur together as humans we see these as topics. Thus, we can infer a set of themes that best characterize these co-ocurred words. We choose Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) as our topic modeling algorithm because it is relatively straightforward, and results from other studies show it produces effective topic mixtures and coherent topics.

3.2.3 Topic Modeling Results

Document Type Total words Unique words Theme Representative Terms
Bills 19,584 3,349 Rights Title, Subsection, Striking, Rights, United States, Code, Performance, Society, Space
Hearings 1,879,692 131,720 Program Program, Budget, Congress, Services, Law, Federal, Information, Support, Security, Provide
Journals 2,351,016 55,930 Dissemination Committee, House, State, Secretary, Rule, Transmitting, Amendment, New, Public, Agency, Department, National
Laws 3,352 686 Establishment Establishment, Copyright, Court, Amended, License, Effective, Extension, Act, Society
CRS Reports 21,738 2,914 Protection Protection, Author, Database, Works, Right, Public, Period, License, Business
Speeches 125,572 7,473 Action & Legislation Shall, Enforcement, Commission, Legislation, Motion, Property, Trademark, Preservation

It is worth notify that topic modeling generally gives much more complicated results than what you see here. The above table is a summary meant to show the most representative topic for each set of texts. You could find more information about topic modeling in the resources list at the end of this tutorial.

Interestingly, our topic modeling findings reveal that different document types do have a variety of themes in general. For the “Hearing transcripts”, the main topic is about “Program”, identified as a major concern towards Copyright Extension Act. Most of the “Speeches” talk about “Action & Legislation” issues, which are mainly about enforcement of copyright law and relevant practical problems. It is not surprising that “Bills” and “Laws” overlap with each other since Bills is a larger collection than Laws for this case.

Following the main theme of the “Report” text — “Protection”, we can analyze the word links for this theme. The left word cloud plot shows the word frequency mentioned from “Report” text. The right plot represents the linked words of the word “copyright” (305 mentions), “protection” (147 mentions), and “database” (128 mentions) in the Report corpus.


4. Reflections

Geoffrey Rockwell’s “What is Text Analysis?” is an informational article focused specifically on text analysis as a methodology in the humanities. As technology continues to play an ever more central role in both education and research, text as a resource with computational text analysis tools allow scholars to read corpora in new ways. A primary purpose of this text mining intervention is to acquire useful knowledge for the humanities that takes advantage of the digitalization and open data movements across the world.

The increasing amount of digital data in the public domain, structured or unstructured, available for research in the Humanities, has two effects: (1) making data accessible for researchers (e.g. digitization, retro-digitization); and (2) providing tools which allow to dig into the data, especially into huge amounts of data, for analytical purpose (text mining, data mining). Different kinds of tools can be used for textual analysis. A great number of them also allow the use of text mining tools without necessarily requiring a deeper or any understanding of programming or computer sciences. However, it is crucial to choose the appropriate tools as well as design appropriate analysis strategies that can answer the research questions. E.g., Python’s Natural Languages Toolkit is a library for working with coding languages. It can ultimate give users greater control than Voyant Tools but requires more work.


For some more information, introductory materials, and secondary literature on the practice of text analysis, please see:

For more advanced toolboxes, which are not the easiest tools to use, but are good resources for more advanced users, please see:

For more topic modeling tools , please see: