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Please join us for “Measuring Narrative and Literature” on November 9, 12–1pm Eastern, 9–10am Pacific, 5–6pm Greenwich Mean Time. This exciting virtual event will bring together two projects working on cutting-edge research into narrative, literature, and culture: the BookNet project and Contemporary Literature’s Vexed Democratization


Following the talks, there will be time for questions and discussion among the presenters and attendees. We hope to see you there!


This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. RSVP here.


Contemporary Literature’s Vexed Democratization: Juliana Spahr (Professor, Mills College) and Stephanie Young (Adjunct Professor, Mills College) will speak about the Contemporary Literature’s Vexed Democratization project, which explores the literature and writers that can be found in literary circles and how they came to be prestigious. Using a range of approaches including data collection, computational analysis, archival research, and close reading, investigators explore the insular nature of contemporary literary production. Much of this work examines the contradictions that define contemporary literature. On the one hand, technological changes in literary production and distribution have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of works published each year. At the same time, the path to becoming a writer has become more difficult, and more exclusionary than in the past. This work began with a dataset of winners and judges of major literary prizes from 1919-2020 (recently published at post45) From this data, investigators published a series of articles exploring contradictions within literary prestige: “Who Gets to Be a Writer?”,  “On Poets and Prizes”, and “Literature’s Vexed Democratization”. Currently, investigators are working to expand the dataset so as to explore the relationship between literary prestige (as established by these various literary prizes) and marketplace sales. They are also in process on a study of prize judges and a detailed social network analysis of the dataset.


BookNet: Yakov Bart (Associate Professor, Marketing, D'Amore McKim School of Business) and Samsun Knight (Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Toronto Rotman School of Management; Research Affiliate of Northeastern's DATA Initiative) will share insights from the BookNet project, which seeks to fill a gap in quantitative narrative research by developing and introducing a new method for constructing “narrative experience” outcomes data. In this project, Knight and Bart are developing a new, standardized survey that can be administered at scale to create common experience-related metrics that one can use to compare movies across an unprecedentedly rich array of dimensions. The team is designing and testing a survey on how narratives are experienced (“How fast-paced was the middle of the story?”; “How closely did you identify with the main character?”; “Did the world of the story feel real?”) using movies. The goal of the project is to groundbreaking new research on narratives along two new dimensions. First, the existence of common metrics across stories will allow for innovative new descriptive and historical analysis of how stories have changed over time, how viewers’ preferences differ across geographies, and how companies and institutions might better tailor their narrative approaches to communicate better, or to evaluate stories better. Second, the team plans to leverage these data to build and validate new, innovative approaches to quantifying narrative attributes and measuring narrative speed, cohesion and flow. Further work on this project is continuing under the Impact Engine program.

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. RSVP here.

We hope that you will join us! 

  • Monica Storss

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This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. RSVP here.

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