Measuring and visualizing words
February 3rd, 2006 by JTJ

In recent weeks a sub-set of journalists have begun working with the problem of how do we  quantify and illustrate speech.  Or speeches.  The newsletter (at the American Press Institute) reports:'s Eric Ulken built keyword clouds
comparing the text of President Bush's first State of the Union address
— delivered less than five months after the terrorist attacks of Sept.
11, 2001 — with Tuesday's 50-minute speech.

They list commonly-occurring words in the speeches, giving greater
visual weight to those that appear more often. Arranged side-by-side,
they show some interesting contrasts (and similarities).”

Sorta interesting, when it's working.  We applaude the attempt as a fine beginning, but what's missing is some context and explanation, the “So what?” factor.  In fairness, the site's author recognizes the shortcoming, saying: “Of course, they lack any kind of context, but who needs that? (We're kidding.)

On the other coast, ever-inventive Matt Ericson takes another bite of the State of the Union apple and offers up a more interesting visual, “The Words That Were Used.”  [Look in the left column for link to graphic.  But the toned “bubbles” actually show up better in print than online, so if you can't see it well online, try this (and may the copyright gods forgive us).

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