Article length and place count

Year in 1800sWord-count2980447059601490Place-count48121604The Ghost of HammersmithWord count: 1499Place count: 1604Fears of a Ghost, and the Fatal CatastropheWord count: 730Place count: 1004Hammersmith GhostWord count: 708Place count: 1504Another GhostWord count: 607Place count: 504Park GhostWord count: 927Place count: 904Park GhostWord count: 168Place count: 104Notwithstanding our repeated publications...Word count: 169Place count: 004Another Ghost!Word count: 566Place count: 025The New Hammersmith GhostWord count: 559Place count: 826The Ghost LaidWord count: 568Place count: 130The Bermondsey GhostWord count: 778Place count: 232A GhostWord count: 75Place count: 032Tom Paine's GhostWord count: 322Place count: 333Resuscitation of The Hammersmith GhostWord count: 379Place count: 936A Ghost! A Ghost!Word count: 510Place count: 536The Hampstead Ghost? Legal Proceedings against the PoliceWord count: 424Place count: 236A GhostWord count: 329Place count: 436Not Dead, or No GhostWord count: 241Place count: 338Police Column: Yesterday The Lord Mayor...Word count: 681Place count: 738The New Hammersmith GhostWord count: 1109Place count: 438All the world...Word count: 1447Place count: 438A ghost, a bear, or a devilWord count: 95Place count: 338The GhostWord count: 1337Place count: 338A Black Ghost on the London and Birmingham RailwayWord count: 267Place count: 341Thoughts On Seeing GhostsWord count: 1616Place count: 044A Pomeranian GhostWord count: 727Place count: 747The New Hammersmith GhostWord count: 148Place count: 152A Ghost at HullWord count: 575Place count: 352The Ghost of the Cock Lane GhostWord count: 5960Place count: 1653Nelson's GhostWord count: 204Place count: 057Another Stockwell Ghost CaseWord count: 244Place count: 158A Ghost CaughtWord count: 371Place count: 464Science: A new GhostWord count: 130Place count: 164Another Ghost Case: The PrestidigitateurWord count: 373Place count: 075A Substantial Ghost StoryWord count: 582Place count: 789Ghost Cut GhostWord count: 2968Place count: 1

Research question: Is there a relationship (beyond mere coincidence) between an article’s length and its relationship to physical space? Are short, reported articles more or less likely to make significant use of specific place reference than the longform pieces of the later decades? This visualization starts from the data, and eschews a few common visual communication tools in favor of concentration on research questions.

A key feature of this visualization is its interactivity. Hover over each segment to see its title, place-count, and word-count values. You can click any segment to read the article as well, almost an alternative view of the full list Articles page. The hyperlinking supports the project’s research goal (“to facilitate close reading”) and offers context for articles more broadly. Each article is considered on its own, rather than in relation to its neighbors.

Early drafts of this graph included a timeline along the bottom. People like timelines, and find them easy to navigate. The data doesn’t fit neatly on a timeline, though, so I favored an approach that still arranged articles by linear time, but didn’t force a regular x-axis. There’s a gap in articles during the 1810s that made for an awkward blank space. That isn’t to say negative space can't be revealing, but in this case the visualization was not meant to show corpus distribution across the century, but instead to show each article’s place-length relationship. If we wanted to make a visualization about corpus distribution across the century, we could. I don’t want to do that for two reasons: the data heavily favors three famed hoax events in 1804 and 1838, and it isn’t related to my research questions, which focus much more on micro reading and interpretation than macro conclusions.

At the beginning of the century, there is a strong correlation between article brevity and place count references. Most articles are less than 1000 words, so this conclusion isn’t interesting on its own. Most of the stories from 1804 focus on two events: the Hammersmith ghost and the St. James Park ghost. The shorter articles, which have fewer specific references to place, are reporting about reporting; a kind of printed sparring match between papers accusing one another of having invented a ghost story in St. James’s Park. Ghost of Hammersmith, a story about a bricklayer who is shot because someone (allegedly) mistakes his white garb for a ghostly habit. The reported story makes very clear, specific references to places in Hammersmith, clearly enough that I could dereference them against period maps to find contemporary coordinates for these places. Later stories, which are not reported from inquest but instead make broad-ranging references, take satirical or farcical tones, or in some cases are fictionalized for serials, will make fewer references when they do mention Hammersmith, the connections between the audience's understanding of place and setting now divorced from the story itself. Contemporary readers of this collection can gain some insight into this move from factual (if sensational) reporting to fictionalization via this visualization.