Navigating an imagined Middle–earth: Finding and analyzing text–based and film–based mental images of Middle–earth through online fan community


  • Jennifer M. Grek Martin Dalhousie University
  • Anatoliy Gruzd Dalhousie University
  • Vivian Howard Dalhousie University



automated text analysis, online fan communities, Tolkien


The proliferation of social media brings new opportunities to discover the ways in which we receive, process, and disseminate information — even information that seems confined to our imaginations. Mental imagery — those images we create in our imaginations as we read a text or watch a film — is not well understood. Netlytic, a Web-based system for automated text analysis, permitted the capture and analysis of online discussions relating to mental images of J.R.R. Tolkien’s and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings as text and as film adaptation, giving insight to our understanding of mental imagery as a form of human cognition and information processing. Furthermore, this study serves as a starting point for further development of academic research using Web-based text analysis systems and online communities.

Author Biographies

Jennifer M. Grek Martin, Dalhousie University

Jennifer Grek Martin received her MLIS from Dalhousie University; she also holds an MSc in Geography from the University of Wisconsin — Madison. She currently teaches courses at Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University, both in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Anatoliy Gruzd, Dalhousie University

Dr. Anatoliy Gruzd ( is an Associate Professor in the School of Information Management and Director of the Social Media Lab ( at Dalhousie University, Canada. His research initiatives explore how social media and other web 2.0 technologies are changing the ways in which people disseminate knowledge and information and how these changes are impacting social, economic and political norms and structures of our modern society. Dr. Gruzd is also actively developing and testing new web tools and apps for discovering and visualizing information and online social networks. The broad aim of his various research initiatives is to provide decision makers with additional knowledge and insights into the behaviors and relationships of online network members, and to understand how these interpersonal connections influence our personal choices and actions.

Vivian Howard, Dalhousie University

associate professor in the School of Information  
Management and Associate Dean Academic of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University




How to Cite

Grek Martin, J. M., Gruzd, A., & Howard, V. (2013). Navigating an imagined Middle–earth: Finding and analyzing text–based and film–based mental images of Middle–earth through online fan community. First Monday, 18(5).