Blog Post

Dartmouth Commencement Speech Project Reflection

The goal of our project is to analyze Dartmouth commencement speeches from the past ten years for advocacies of social justice. We are going to put each speech into Voyant, a text analysis tool, in order to find common words and word distribution throughout speeches. From what we find from Voyant, we are going to analyze the message of social justice the speaker is trying to accomplish, look at what major events of the year influenced their speech, and the personal motivations involved in their speech. Our conclusions will be posted on a WordPress website displayed in an artful and engaging manner. The body on the sites homepage will feature a timeline with the past 10 years of speeches marked on it. When you click on each year you will see a video or image of the speech and then be able to click from there to the individual analysis of that speech. The header of the website will host links to analyze of all of the speeches as a whole and other speeches against one another. We will analyze speeches that may be very similar or very different in order to find trends in the commencement speeches.


At this point in time, every group member has been assigned two speeches and has then run each speech separately through Voyant. Our next step is for each of us to take our two speeches and what we have learned through the text mapping tools on Voyant to further our analysis. We would like to pick out certain words, like perhaps the word job in each speech, and see how often they use that word despite it not being one of the most common words. In each of the speeches I read, by Wendy Kopp and Geoffrey Canada, they spent their livelihoods in order to help teach underprivileged American children. It would be interesting to analyze how greatly they mention social justice in their speeches and how much of a call to action do they initiate. After analyzing each speech individual we are going to see what we can learn by putting all of the speeches together. What I can bring to this project is my analysis and eye for design. I can use my analysis skills to gain an understanding of the speeches and think about how the speeches relate to each other and to the topic of social justice. I also can help the website look aesthetically pleasing to the user.


The main tool that is giving us all of our information is Voyant. We will also be using Wordpress to create our website and a free timeline creator to put on the homepage. In class we read some articles mentioning how some digital humanities tools do not work the way that they are supposed to, although I do not this is true for Voyant, but is something that would good to look at. The voyant tool has the ability to pick out words that align with social justice. 



This was helpful to read even as a member of your group because I have a hard time putting our process down into words. I know it is on the Google Doc and I know what our plan is, but as for what we are looking for in the content and what we'll do with it is very important and difficult for me to conceptualize at these early stages of our project. 

I also like how you questeioned whether a "call to action" was administered by Kopp and Canada- it will be really interesting to see each of the speeches in light of the events that took place that year and also cool to inspect those particular speeches in parallel with each other.


I really enjoyed how you articulated the vision of our project, and I'm glad to hear that you have an eye for design - I can't wait to see what you can do to help make the site look great! One question/worry I have is whether the timeline can be transfered to the WordPress site and preserve its interactive features. Do you know anything about that?


This project seems really cool! I am looking forward to using your site, I think the layout you have planned will be easy to use and intuitive. You mentioned that the two speakers you have analyzed "spent their livelihoods in order to help teach underprivileged American children. It would be interesting to analyze how greatly they mention social justice in their speeches and how much of a call to action do they initiate." Are you interested in how much they mention social justice in general, or in relation to the work they spent their lives doing? I think it would be cool to analyze how much the work the speakers do influence the language they use in their speeches!