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Carley, Kathleen. "Extracting culture through textual analysis."

Carley, Kathleen. "Extracting culture through textual analysis." Poetics 22 (1994): 291-312. [link to CASOS]


(This is the fourth in a series of publications I've downloaded from CASOS.)

"This paper explores the relative benefits for using content analysis and map analysis for extracting and analyzing culture given a series of texts" (291).

"In this paper, it is demonstrated that textual analysis techniques that consider the distribution across and within texts of concepts and the inter-relationships among concepts can be fruitfully used to examine the role that culture plays in human memory and cognition" (292).

relative benefits of 2 techniques: content analysis (concepts/frequency) and map analysis (concepts, relationships, & frequency) (See Carley 1993 for distinction)

"Note, map analysis subsumes content analysis when the researcher focuses simply on the question 'is the concept or statement present in the text?' Thus the value added of map analysis over content analysis is the extra value of knowing when the 'story told' by statements elaborates on or contradicts that told by only the concepts" (294).

"In this paper, social knowledge is that set of concepts (or statements) such that each concept (or statement) occurs in 50% or more of the texts being analyzed. Second, cultural diversity is measured as the number of concepts (or statements) used in the texts. Third, when map analysis is used cultural density can also be measured. Cultural density, or the degree to which the social knowledge that forms the basis of the culture is interconnected, can be measured as the ratio of statements to concepts. In this case, the higher the number the more interconnected the concepts" (295).

Four datasets: thesaurus entries for comedy and drama; portrayal of robots in science fiction; role of culture in children's recall of stories; role of cultural knowledge in the decision making process.


Over time, portrayal of robots has become more complex. Social knowledge appears to have decreased then returned to original level. Diversity of culture has increased. Shared vision remained comparable.

"In other words, over time the number of concepts used by the majority to discuss concepts has decreased while the degree of interconnection among those concepts has increased. These authors may be using fewer similar words to describe robots but they are using those words in a more similar fashion" (299).

"Clearly, there is less social knowledge about robots across the decades than there is unique knowledge. Nevertheless, sufficient changes pervade the culture that the overall view of robots as portrayed by these authors changed from bad to good. Clearly part of what is unique to each period are technological changes reflecting current science fiction thinking. Another major part of what is unique to each period is the portrayal of how people in the books respond to the robots, the portrayal of the expected culture" (303).

"These examples serve to illustrate the added benefits of map analysis. they demonstrate that by taking a more cognitive approach to coding texts we can gain additional information on culture. In general, it is often most informative to compare the results from a content analysis with those of a map analysis; e.g., to first examine concepts and then to move on to the examination of statements" (310).


Two of the four examples I've seen before, so this essay seemed a little more basic than it would have before I'd begun making my way through the CASOS papers.

Even though the terminology is a little different than previous papers, it's similar enough to provide a nice example of empirically verifying what might otherwise be interpretive hunches. I focus in my notes on the robot example, of course, but this is true of each of these examples.

One point that doesn't emerge in Carley's analysis that seemed particularly appropriate for the robot example is the diachronics of that data set. Particularly in science fiction (or any specialist genre), it's likely that writers in the later periods would have read writers in the earlier ones. What kind of effect that would have on questions of shared knowledge, diversity, and density is something I'd have to think through--there is something, however, to the idea that someone in the 80s writing about robots might consciously wish to break from (or reinscribe), say, Asimov's treatment. Culture changes, yes, but I'm not sure she accounts here for the cumulative and recursive possibilities of that change.

It's less an issue in her other examples, though, and insofar as this article is meant to demonstrate the analyses first and foremost, it's more something for me to ponder than anything else.