Oddments

For The Wordsmiths

Is it possible to study something as ill-defined as culture in a quantitative manner? Researchers from Harvard have collaborated with Google and some traditional publishers to answer that question with a qualified “yes.” By leveraging a portion of Google’s massive library of digitized books, the team has created what they call a “culturome,” with which they can track the use of language and terms across hundreds of years. This lets them track not only trends in language and usage, but the rise and fall of celebrities and historic events in the books of many eras. And, thanks to Google, the underlying data has been exposed via a Web interface, allowing others to perform their own analysis…

link: Database of Google Books shows the half-life of celebrity

Here’s a link to the Google tool they mention. I don’t know how useful this is to anybody, but it can be interesting (and fun in a geeky way).

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Comments

  1. bmj2k  December 17, 2010

    I’d love to have a pithy comment here, but I really need to read that article closely.
    But if it means we’re nearly done with Justin Beiber, I’m all for it.

    reply
  2. skinner  December 18, 2010

    Oooooh, that tool is QUITE neat.

    http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=Hilton,Pinkerton&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothing=3

    Thanks, Jim!

    reply
  3. Jim  December 19, 2010

    I thought you two could have fun with this.

    Let’s hope Hilton has peaked, and Bieber has no younger siblings to take his place once he starts puberty and his career is over!

    reply

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