Little Time in a Century: .05%

"Little" "Time" in a Decade: .05%

Art Piece (Carrie Roy): Framed print 20” x 16”

Note on image: Ross Tredinnick from Living Environments Lab, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, and Carrie Roy designed 3D text visualization tool, WordCAKE, of word frequencies as they change over time. Learn more about the tool here.


Literary Perspective (Catherine DeRose): "Little" "Time" in a Century: .05% offers an exciting possibility for tracking word usage in the nineteenth-century novel, and it showcases an alternate approach to the novel vocabulary question that a few of our other pieces explore. In "Little" "Time," we took a corpus of around 250 nineteenth-century novels, divided them by decade, and then identified the most frequently occurring words.. The title of this piece comes from the two words that feature most prominently in every single decade—“little” and “time”—with “time” claiming the top-most spot (in terms of word frequency) in the first four decades of the nineteenth century and “little” claiming the rest, except for the 1870s and 1890s when “time” returns to the top. “Old” and “day” frequently competed for the third and fourths spots, respectively, suggesting a novel preoccupation with time—and more specifically, with its passing. One of the provocative aspects of this tool is that it allows literary scholars to track particular words across time based on their frequency, which in turn can reveal the rise and fall in certain topics and innovations. The word “railway,” for instance, first appears on the list in the1840s (which makes sense, that is when the number of railways dramatically increased in England). At its first appearance, “railway” was the 6296th most frequent word. By the 1870s, “railway” has jumped in popularity, becoming the 1007th most frequently appearing word. The fact that it had a 5000 word climb in three decades testifies to the impact the railway had, not just on British life but also on British fiction. The “railway” remained a part of novel vocabularies throughout the remainder of the century.


Statistics Perspective (Fred Boehm): "Little" "Time" in a Century: .05% provides the viewer with a truly novel manner of experiencing 100 years of English literature. We challenge the viewer to use Roy and Tredinnick's WordCAKE tool to see decade's words surround them. The viewer should consider both the words she sees in a given decade and the striking absences. The absences relate this piece to one aspect of "The Great Unread" piece. CompCouture used accessible, digitized Victorian novels to create this piece. Thus, we have no way of accounting for the Victorian novels that are unavailable (for any number of reasons).


Process: we generated CSVs of word frequencies for each decade of novels and had WordCAKE generate a 3D visualization of the words (Matthew Jocker's expanded stop list was also used to exclude proper names, function words, etc.) with a minimum threshold of .05%

result list: