TMT: Grange Visitor Analysis

 How do the main topics from the 1876 Grange Visitor publications and the 1896 Grange Visitor publications compare/contrast?


1876 top 3 topics:

1. Grange State Order Business Secretary Committee Association Work Officers Plaster

2. Visitor Good Time Office Interest Money Patrons Price Orders County

3. Grange Granges Members Master Meeting St Prices Sec Subordinate List

1896 top 3 topics:

1. State Work Michigan Make School Made Man Large Years Great

2. Time Farm Life Day College Men People Place House World

3. Grange Good Mrs County Farmers Present Free Kathleen General Price

While I know that the Grange Visitor spans from 1875-1896 I thought it would be more interesting to look at it based on the 20 year span within the publications. Looking at the top 3 topics the TMT provided for the year 1876, it seems to be more about government. In contrast, the publications from 1896 seemed to be more about education, farming and labor.

I thought these main topics were particularly interesting especially because 1876 and 1896 were both election years. It makes sense that the 1876 topics were more government based, which is evident with the words: state, order, office, patrons, meetings, subordinate, etc. Most, if not all of the topic words can be related to government in some way. The 1896 topics seemed a little more focused on other aspects, not just the government. I’m assuming this could be because in 1876 the Grange was only publishing a newspaper once a month, and by 1896 they were well past publishing twice a month. It could also be because there were different pressing issues in the two different years, which I would have to do further research on to find out.

I was surprised to see both the topics of school and college in 1896 and not in 1876. This could be attributed to the possibility that people started viewing education as an important aspect in life in 1896. I was also surprised to see that farm and labor were in 1896 and not in 1876. That seems like something that would typically come earlier. Considering that these were both election years, I expected both of them to be more government based like the 1876 topics.

Although I don’t know much about these two years as a whole, it’s interesting to see how things can change in 20 years. I think it would be beneficial to look up certain things that happened during these 20 years and see if that effected their publications due to societal changes.

In order to look at this further I decided to add in the year 1886 to draw some more conclusions. Here are the 3 main topics from the year 1886:

1. Grange Good Make Mich Year Order Ft Patrons Water Stock

2. Farmers Man County Men Time People Farmer Work Mrs Ing

3. Day Made State Good Michigan Children Great Labor Give Place

Given that this was not an election year, these topics definitely make more sense. I’m now able to see the shift from the topic of government in 1876 to the focus on farmers and labor in 1886. However that still doesn’t explain the fact that the 1896 topics (an election year), were more similar to the 1886 topics (a non-election year), rather than the topics of 1876 (also an election year).

After comparing all 3 years, 1886 and 1896 seem to be very similar. I’m wondering if that has anything to do with the fact they they both published twice a month instead of once a month like 1876, or if I had done more topics would all 3 years be a little more alike?

I only chose to look at the top 3 topics in order to make it easier to make comparisons. I’m assuming if I had done 5-10 topics I might get more similarities between these 3 years.

I’ve also noticed that Michigan is a common topic in the latter years (1886 and 1896) than in 1876. I wonder why that might be. Did they not see a point to use the word Michigan a lot in their early publications seeing that it is a Michigan newspaper? They had to have talked about topics in Michigan considering it is a Michigan publication so maybe they really didn’t see a need…I suppose I could look further into the articles and see when and where they used the word Michigan if they did and why. All 3 of these years do contain the word state, which is also interesting. I wonder what context they were using it in.

Through this assignment I was able to see how the further you get in your research and analysis the more questions you want answered. I enjoyed analyzing this publication through the topic modeling tool. I love how it allows for an open interpretation by just simply giving the main “topic” words in a cluster. I can’t wait to start using other DH tools for our own project.

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5 thoughts on “TMT: Grange Visitor Analysis

  1. Wow. I am super impressed by what you were able to do here. I personally forgot how to do pretty much everything we did in class. It’s a lot of steps to memorize. I think you also brought up a good point when you said that the deeper one gets into research, the more questions one has.

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  2. What you said about election year trends made me think about other topics in Michigan culture that we could analyze in the Grange Visitor. Maybe using other tools in addition to the TMT, we could look at the automobile industry or the economy in MI. In terms of our final project, I think it will be interesting to analyze the cultural contexts associated with mission statements of all the colleges.

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    • I definitely think looking at societal changes and Michigan culture would make things more interesting. I like your idea to do the same with the mission statements. I would assume these types of things did play a huge roll in the grange publications. Looking at the cultural contexts in comparison to our mission statements would also add another cool angle to our project. I’m not sure how long that would take or if we could just pull a few to compare but I’m assuming that would help as we analyze it all. It might even change our research question around or perhaps we could add another? I’m sure the cultural contexts definitely have some sort of roll.

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  3. Interesting approach! What’s really strong about this post is that you are considering future directions and have further questions that your results inspired you to ask.

    Something I think you should do more of is talk about your procedure. What were the steps you took when you ran the data through the TMT? Did you each year separately, or did you find this data after you ran the entire corpus and then looked at your excel file to determine the top 3 topics for each year? These procedures make a huge different in your conclusions, so it’s important to list them out.

    Also (and this is getting super nit-picky), be careful about the ways that you’re stating your conclusions. It would be hard to tell from a specialized paper if the general population valued an idea or not from these results (and from the way the tool works itself), but you could maybe say that the Grange Visitor decided to expand the topics that it covered. See the difference there? They’re similar conclusions, but the way the second one is stated better reflects the possibilities of distant reading/textual analysis.

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