Blog Post

Project Reflection

The goal of our team project is to create a timeline-based database that holds analyses of the past 10 Dartmouth keynote commencement speeches. In creating this database and forming these analyses, we hope to uncover insights into what the social justice implications are of keynote speeches, and how these implications are related to the personal motivations of the speakers and the sociopolitcal climate in the year in which they were given. We also hope to uncover trends and patterns, such as the most common words in commencement speeches and the common distribution of these words throughout a speech.

We will accomplish these goals by each putting 2 of the past 10 speeches into differnet tools in Voyant. What the tools tell us will then help inform our close-reading analysis of the speech and its social justice implications, and our close reading will also help us interpret what is revealed through the text mining tools.

My role to date has been generating the initial vision for the project and proposing an initial plan and distribution of tasks. I gave a graduation speech in high school that people still approach me to talk about in my community to day, so I have experience and a belief in the ability of these speeches to leave a lasting impression. I also have strong writing and analytical skills, and believe that I have a desire to hear everyone's voice and make sure everyone in my group is happy, though this desire can at times present a challenge to productivity. Ultimately, however, I hope this desire will allow our group to design a project that calls upon everyone's skills in a satisfactory manner.

The main technical components of our project are the Voyant tools and the use of Northwestern University's timeline tool to present our findings. These tools may be complicit in social injustices in the sense that I am not sure they are available in other languages. Timelines in general may be limiting in the sense that they reduce social injustices to events on a chart, and in that sense make each event appear equal although they may not be in terms of their social justice implications. Nonetheless, I believe these tools will serve our purposes because Voyant allows us to take a more 'macro' look at the speeches than we would normally get from a close reading, and the timeline will be a user-friendly way of presenting our findings.



Hi Fiona, THis is a very thoughtful reflection on your project. I have a couple of questions for you. When you describe your project as a "a timeline-based database that holds analyses of the past 10 Dartmouth keynote commencement speeches" I didn't see you describe the database type itself in your list of tools. In what kind of database do your speeches and analyses now live, or what type of database will you use? Is the timeline simply the display end, or does the Northwestern tool archive the essays and visualizations, as well? 

You do have strong writing and analytical skills as well as great experience to bring to bear on this project, and I am excited to see what your team produces!


Fiona, this sounds really cool. I like the idea of analyzing commencement speeches for their implications on issues of social justice. Which variables do you all plan on testing [race, gender, sexuality, etc.]? It is interesting to think about which issues stand out to which people. In terms of close readings of a speech, different people will latch onto different words and phrases as meaningful. Unpacking the contingent nature of individual attitudes toward different issues of social justice will probably be hard to integrate into the project but could be worth thinking about. Anyways, this sounds great, best of luck!


As a fellow project member, your thoughts are very much in line of how I view our project. I thought it was interesting how you mentioned how people are still apporaching you about your own graduation speech. It may be too large for our project, but it would be interesting if we could talk to Dartmouth graduates and see what they remember from their commencement speeches and if what they heard at commencement had an effect on their life after college. 


I like the idea and am very interested in project. Because, I will learn some new tools in Data Analysis. Another good is, we will learn about how each other have different prospective of Data Analysis.

I want to be creative and use some of my capabilities for this project.