The research for the dissertation The place of poetry in the Digital Age, Co. Meath, a case study was carried out during July and early August of 2018. The focus group for the research were writers in the Meath area and Ireland. A survey of 10 questions was answered by 20 respondents and 5 interviews were conducted through 1-1 interview, social media messenger, email and telephone conversation. The research also took from observation through ethnography and digital ethnography. According to Wikipedia
Ethnography (from Greek ἔθνος ethnos “folk, people, nation” and γράφω grapho “I write”) is the systematic study of people and cultures. It is designed to explore cultural phenomena where the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. An ethnography is a means to represent graphically and in writing the culture of a group.
Meanwhile Yates (2004) describes ethnography in terms of “participant and non-participant observation – watching or being part of a social context…semi-structured and unstructured in-depth interviews…group discussion and interviews…” and “collecting documentary materials – anything from letters or memos to novels or reports” (p.140).
The creation of this digital artefact led me in some unexpected directions. I had not intended compiling a list of writing groups in Meath but I found myself doing so. In researching the history of poetry in Meath I discovered that the demise of the Irish language (especially as a spoken language) in the county was quite recent. In correlation with the recent debate on the lack of women poets in the canon I found evidence of only one female poet in the region (so I wonder were there no women writing, was it something they didn’t actually do or is it because there are few records of such? And is this because society was set a certain way? How were women educated, were they educated?).
Some findings from the analysis were that the Internet has made poetry more accessible, that writers have a keen knowledge of what the Digital Age is and that most are willing to use its tools and technologies in their writing. Personally I believe that we have only touched the tip of the iceberg in utilising the digital in writing and as a writer I am excited about learning more. There is a concern for the quality of poetry appearing online. Writers wonder if there is too little editorial control and about the genuineness of instant likes and shares. However it is generally agreed that poets and writers in the Digital Age benefit from the participatory culture of social media and from a sense of community online. Below is a presentation of some of the voices that participated in the research:
poetry (33); age (13); digital (10); internet (6); easier (5); good (5); people (5); think(5); continue (4); needs (4); access (3); bad (3); born (3); communities (3); irish (3); it’s (3); like (3); music (3); new (3); online (3); paper (3); published (3); text (3); video (3); word (3); work (3); writing (3); able (2); audience (2); challenge (2)
The cirrus cloud above shows the most frequently words occurring in the quotations used in the PowerPoint presentation. The top 30 words are listed above. It is significant that words such as “easier”, “good”, “needs”, “access”, “communities” and “challenge” appear. These words underline a main point arising from the research, that the digital age gives easier access to communities, even if the tools sometimes seem challenging.
This analysis was done using Voyant Tools which is “an open-source, web-based application for performing text analysis. It supports scholarly reading and interpretation of texts or corpus, particularly by scholars in the digital humanities, but also by students and the general public. It can be used to analyze online texts or ones uploaded by users” (Wikipedia). If you’re curious about text analysis then give Voyant a try as a leap off point in distant reading!
Yates, Simeon J (2004), Doing Social Science Research. London, SAGE Publications.