Friday, December 17, 2010

Another fine timesink

This one's from Google Labs, as it turns out, though the radio piece I heard had it coming from Harvard.  According to the site itself, it's the product of "a team spanning the Cultural Observatory, Harvard, Encyclopaedia Britannica, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Google*."

So what is it?  It's culturomics.  What's that, you may ask?

There's a bit of hype, mostly in the press, about opening up a "new field", but the web site is simply a tool to mine the Google Books corpus for trends in word frequency.

OK, maybe that doesn't sound overly exciting, but try it. I'll be here when you get back.  [Looks like there's not much at that link anymore.  I think this eventually was supplanted by or morphed into ngrams, which is still alive and well -- D.H. Dec 2015]

Time permitting, I'll probably have a bit more to say about the word-mining itself on the other blog.

* As usual, I don't know any more about the Google end of it than you do [and I still don't -- D.H. Dec 2015] and if I did I would recuse myself. It does fit pretty squarely with Google's mission "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful," though it's not clear how useful the site might be to the non-specialist.

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