Impact & Fiction is a three-year research project funded by the Netherlands eScience Center (project portfolio number ASDI.2020.032). In the project, researchers at the Huygens Institute for History and Culture investigate the impact that books have on readers, using a dataset of online book reviews. The researchers involved in Impact & Fiction come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, including Dutch literature, literary studies, empirical literary studies, computer science and artificial intelligence.
In the project, we investigate which properties of fiction have an impact on readers. We use a large corpus of recent Dutch novels, a large corpus of online book reviews (> 472000) and a large collection of book lists (> 37400) created by users on book-oriented social media sites. For the first time, Impact & Fiction brings together these data types. We analyze the types of impact that reviewers say reading has on them in online book reviews and cluster readers according to their reading choices. Additionally, for the corpus of novels, we develop new metrics for textual properties. Based on these metrics, we analyze the impact of fiction as expressed in online book reviews.
Impact & Fiction thus examines three research questions:
1. How does reading fiction affect or impact readers?
2. Which textual properties of books contribute to this impact?
3. How is this impact related to the reader’s reading preferences?
One of the project’s key aims is to develop metrics for properties of fiction that can be understood from the perspectives of both computer science and literary studies. We focus on the following properties:
1. overall textual properties: mood or emotional tone and topic;
2. stylistic properties: concreteness, densities of action, dialogue, reflection and description in the text, complexity, unexpectedness and some reader-level stylistic characteristics
3. narrative properties: attractiveness of characters and narrative pace