Digital Humanities Student Intern (2023 Seed Funding DH Project)
YIP Sau Lai, Sherry

January 30, 2024
2023 seed funding faculty project sanbao

Student Reflection

Sherry is one of our student interns who actively participated in our 2023 Digital Humanities Seed Funding Project from September 2023 to January 2024.

See below the words from Sherry regarding her experience on this project!

This internship offered me a valuable opportunity to work on a digital humanities project that focused on exploring the linguistic style of an early Chinese novel, Zheng He’s Voyages to the Western Sea, using digital humanities methods, and developing an interactive webpage to illustrate the novel.  

For the first major goal, analyzing the linguistic style of the novel, we decided to explore the playfulness of repetition in the novel by comparing it with two other contemporary novels, Journey to the West and Three Sui Quelling the Rebel’s Revolt after brainstorming. Considering effectiveness, the repetition of sentence structures in the dialogues was chosen as the representation.  

Originally, I organized the text of the novels into CSV format and extracted all the dialogues. Then inspired by the initial trial of one of my teammates, finding the repetitive permutations of “Part of Speech” within a dialogue, I proposed to apply this pattern-repetition idea to a group of dialogues from the same scene, because we found that the author tended to use similar sentence structures in a same scene. Furthermore, to make this comparison of repetition between novels more understandable, I designed a calculation formula to assign a repetition score for each dialogue group, taking the frequencies and lengths of patterns, and the number of dialogues in a group into consideration. Finally, I summarized the statistical results of dialogue grouping, ingroup-repetitive patterns, and repetition scores across the three novels using charts. The above study indicated that this kind of repetition in sentence structures is an outstanding feature of Zheng He’s Voyages to the Western Sea. 

In the second mission of the project, I was responsible for extracting and organizing the data needed for the webpage from the novel. I listed out all the countries in the voyage route, matched them with the real places if applicable, and located them in latitude and longitude. I also picked out important characters and categorized them according to stories and places. Additionally, the corresponding chapters and introductory quotes in the novel were extracted for each country and character.  

With the extracted data, I further designed a network graph to visualize the relationship among the characters in the novel. Reusing the “dialogue group” idea from the study of linguistic style in the first task, the intimacy of a pair of characters was defined by the word sum of dialogues between them. Since the dialogues were grouped by scene, for each pair, if they both appear in a dialogue group, the dialogues from either of them in this group would be counted. To simplify the graph, less important nodes and edges were filtered out based on weights. 

This internship was valuable considering the fruitful professional development I gained. Working on such an interdisciplinary project, I developed a sense of the importance of cultivating a broad perspective and practiced how to quickly get familiar with a field outside my area of expertise. Another benefit is the practical experience of applying theoretical knowledge to real-life problems. Taking programming as an example, I learnt that it requires a combinatory application of problem translation, theoretical logic, and online research skills. Additionally, my team-working skill was improved thanks to this opportunity. Under the lead of such a well-organized team, I developed professional habits such as weekly reporting, documentation, and stage summarizing, which are essential professionalism for my future career.  

YIP Sau Lai, Sherry
Year 3, BSc in Data Science and Technology