From Words to Numbers: Narrative, Data, and Social Science

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This book illustrates a set of tools - story grammars, relational data models, and network models - that can be profitably used for the collection, organization, and analysis of narrative data in sociohistorical research. A story grammar, or subject-action-object and their modifiers, is the linguistic tool the author uses to structure narrative for the purpose of collecting data on protest events. Relational database models make such complex data collection schemes practically feasible in a computer environment. Finally, network models are a statistical tool best suited to analyze this type of data. Driven by the metaphors of the journal ( and the alchemy (words into numbers), the book leads the reader through a number of paths, from substantive to methodological issues, across time and disciplines: sociology, linguistics, literary criticism, history, statistics, computer science, philosophy, cognitive psychology, and political science. The book mitigates its quest for rigor in the social sciences with a subtle irony for that quest.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521541459
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2004
  • Series: Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences Series, #22
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 500
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

List of tables xiii
List of figures xv
Acknowledgments xvii
The Ant and the Cicada 1
"It Takes Two to Tango": In Search of the Actor 3
The Lemon and the Grapefruit 4
Of Journeys and Alchemies 5
"The Law of Genre" 8
"Methodological Pestilence" 11
An Antiquarian in a Modern World 14
Breaking the Law 18
Of Prefaces and Introductions: Guidebook for the Journey 20
Part I From Words to Numbers: A Journey
Prologue 27
Chapter 1 "In the Beginning Was the Word" 29
"In the Beginning Was the Word" 29
Content Analysis: "Objective, Systematic, and Quantitative" 32
From Event Counts to Event Characteristics 35
Turning to Linguistics for Help 40
Syntax Grammar 41
Semantic Text Grammar 43
Psychologists' Story Grammars 45
A Story Grammar for Sociohistorical Research 47
Examples of Coding 52
Running into Problems with Story Grammars 54
Narrative Discourse 55
What Have We Gained? 59
Chapter 2 Ars Memoriae 62
The Artificial Art of Memory: The Old and the New 62
Database Design for a Story Grammar 66
Computer-Assisted Content Analysis 69
Basic Features of the Software 70
Some Lessons from Cognitive Psychology 72
Reliability versus Efficiency 73
On Sampling: More on Reliability versus Efficiency 73
And More Lessons from Linguistics: Text Schemata 74
Data Verification 76
Navigating a Relational Database 79
Toy Examples and "Real" Data: The Test of Large Data Sets 81
From the "Red Years" to the "Black Years" (Italy, 1919-1922) 82
Simple Counts Tell Complex Stories 82
Stitching the Thread 89
Further Advantages of Story Grammars 91
Scientists' Bitter Fate 92
Chapter 3 "Everything Is Number" 98
"Friends of Friends": Grammars and Network Models 98
Mobilization and Countermobilization Processes (1919-1922): Shifting Networks of Interaction 100
"Everything Is Number" 109
Of Thin Threads and Other Threads 113
And Yet, What Do We Know? 118
In the Linguists' Tool Bag: Theta Theory 122
Of Beauty (and Science) 124
Journeys 131
"A March it Was" 131
Pilgrims on the Road 132
Voyages of Discovery 138
Ways of Seeing 142
Silence and Emphasis 147
"Journeys ... Magic Caskets Full of Dreamlike Promises" 154
Part II Looking Back: What's in the Numbers?
Prologue 157
Chapter 4 The Word and the World 161
Founding Fathers and Disciplinary Mottos 161
The "Science of Sociology" 161
"Wie es eigentlich gewesen" 164
The Newspaper "Black Box" 167
Why, Then, Newspapers? Social Scientists' Line of Defense 171
Opening the Box: Behind the Surface of Our 1919-1922 Data 173
Silence and Emphasis Revisited 175
How to Go about Validating Data: A Decalogue of Rules 177
Further Rules: Selecting the Newspaper(s) 180
Barking up the Wrong Tree: Reliability versus Validity 180
Data: "Given" or Constructed? 183
Content and Form 187
Chapter 5 "A Worlde of Wordes" 193
Back to the Linguist's World 193
Stories 194
An Oxford Story 194
A Children's Story 195
The Moral of the Stories: "Where Is Anna Giulia?" 196
"The Body and its Shadow": Play, Aesthetics, and Language Games 199
The Language of Science 202
Poetry and Science 207
Heart and Mind 211
Dialoghi Italiani 214
Confessions of an Ass 216
Content Analysis Myths (Back to Silence and Emphasis) 219
Debunking the Myths: What Is Meaning? 222
True Believers 226
Modern Alchemists: What We Do with the Numbers 229
What's to Be Done? Alchemists' Recommendations to the Novice 232
Chapter 6 Journeys' Ends 237
Sta Viator 237
From Words to Numbers 238
From Thin Explanations to "Thick Descriptions"? 238
From Variables to Actors 240
From Synchronic to Diachronic Time 242
From Statistical Causality to Narrative Sequences 243
From Structures to Events 245
Unexpected Crossings 247
Sociology Meets History 248
The Centrality of the Verb (Linguistics and Sociology) 252
Sociology as the Study of Social Relations 255
Georg Simmel (1858-1918): "The Stranger in the Academy" 256
Von Wiese's "Specificum Sociologicum" 260
Simmel's Cash Among the Heirs 263
"Fatti Maschi, Parole Femmine" 264
The Feminist Critique 266
Memorabilia 270
Tales of Measurement 274
Tales of Horror 274
Tales of Pressure 276
Social Science Tales 279
Wars of Words 282
What Have We Lost? 285
"Garcon, l'addition!" Counting What? 287
Classification and the Numbers 288
Classification in Practice: The Secret of Secrets 293
The Words (and the Worlds) of Science and Metaphor 295
Tales of Time and Space 298
Faust and His World: What Was in the Beginning? 301
And After
"So Long as We Get Somewhere" 309
Poupinel and His World: In the Beginning Was Meaning 312
On the Road, Again 315
"Know Thyself": Notes on Reflexive Sociology 318
Origin and Originality: Limits to Innovation 324
"Murmure Againste Me" 328
Farewell to the Reader 332
Appendix 339
Notes 343
References 399
Index 445
List of Tables
1.1. Rough number of published studies based on content analysis (five-year intervals, 1921-1950)
2.1. A relational database representation of a story grammar
2.2. The skeleton triplets of the Romeo lockout lockout article in relational format
2.3. Frequency distribution of articles, disputes, and triplets in the 1919-1922 database
2.4. Frequency distribution of actors (subjects and objects) in 1919 (number of disputes)
2.5. Frequency distribution of most common actors (number of disputes)
2.6. Frequency distribution of actions in 1919 (number of disputes)
2.7. Frequency distribution of most common actions (number of disputes)
2.8. Frequency distribution of most common demands (number of disputes)
2.9. Frequency distribution of the most common actions performed by workers (number of disputes)
2.10. Frequency distribution of the actor "Fascists" (number of disputes)
2.11. Frequency distribution of the actions performed by Fascists (number of disputes)
2.12. Frequency distribution of the actors with whom Fascists "clash" (number of disputes)
3.1. Factor analysis of eighteen types of collective actions in the 1919-1922 database
3.2. Factor analysis of eighteen types of collective actions in the 1919-1922 database (rotated factor matrix)
3.3. Least-squares estimates of a regression model of fascist violence
4.1. Distribution of disputes from Il Lavoro by location of occurrence
List of Figures
2.1. Van Dijk's schema of news discourse 75
2.2. Plot of the yearly number of strikers (1879-1922) 83
2.3. Plot of the monthly number of strikers (1919-1922) 83
3.1. Network graphs for the relations of conflict and facilitation for the Romeo Factory Lockout article from Il Lavoro 101
3.2. Network graphs for the sphere of action of communication 102
3.3. Network graphs for the sphere of action of request 103
3.4. Network graphs for the sphere of action of conflict 104
3.5. Network graphs for the sphere of action of violence 105
3.6. Network graphs for the sphere of action of control 107
3.7. Network graphs for the sphere of action of facilitation 108
4.1. Plots of the monthly number of triplets with workers or Fascists as subjects or objects 175
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