2012-09-17

Authors in a Markov matrix: Which author do people find most inspiring? (2)


Problem statement: Analyzing author relationships (1)

Let's start thinking about what is the problem.

One of my friends who studies literature asked me how I would analyze the relationships between authors. For instance, ``How can we measure the influence of Shakespeare in English literature compared to other writers?''

The discussion of which literary works are canonical and the attempts to define the boundaries of the canon are endless (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_canon).  Typically, a specific individual or group has defined the boundaries of the canon. If we consider creating a ranking system using numbers, I wouldn't even know how to begin such a discussion. It is easy to imagine such discussions raising an even more generic question: ``What is art?'' Answering that question is clearly beyond my ability!

If nobody can agree on such a ranking system for authors, I could at least start by creating an incomplete definition, hoping to improve it later. However, my definition would only reflect my personal taste. We could extend the result of one person's opinion to many people's opinions by asking a lot of people. We could start by assuming that there is a correlation between the most frequently printed book and the most preferred book. If this is true, we can just check the number of printings of a particular book. Simple web search tells us that the two most printed books are IKEA's catalog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikea_catalogue) and the Bible. I doubt that the most influential book for English literature is IKEA's catalog. My intuition says maybe not. ``What is literature?'' is also not a simple question. We could replace the number of printings with the total sales, but then magazines and newspapers would have quite a large influence. But again, I am not so sure that this is what my friend and I are looking for.

It seems problem is not so simple, where can I start?

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