Words as Patterns: What They Show Us

“Words, words, words.” Not meaningless, as Hamlet implies.

social infographics, cultural trendspotting, interactive technology, political branding, wordcounting, tag clouds, measurement, Obama tag graphicPresident Obama’s recent State of the Union (SOTU) address set many publications and bloggers into an infographic frenzy. Examining words and patterns is one revealing way to look at relationships between language, political branding, social patterns, and trend-spotting. Informative pictures emerge.

Two exemplary interactive sites provide a wealth of words as a basis for analyses. They are wonderful in design and simplicity of use, and deliver an abundance of information that could only be possible so quickly via tech innovation and open resources.

Patterns of Speech: 75 Years of the SOTU Addresses > This compilation from The New York Times illustrates word usage from 1934 to 2011. According to the graphs, President Obama’s most-used word was “jobs,” uttered 31 times, and historically second to “tax.” The least-used word over the past 75 years was “innovate.” It first appeared in Ronald Reagan’s SOTU address in 1982, not surprisingly when unemployment soared to 9.7%, with double-digit inflation.

social infographics, cultural trendspotting, interactive technology, political branding, wordcounting, tag clouds, analyses, measurement

State of the Union Project > This exhaustive interactive project examines frequency, relevance, position, patterns and changes in the language of SOTU addresses for the past 200 years. This site houses extensive information on its development and methodology.

Highlights include the two-word SotuGraph comparison, the historical timeline and the superb tag clouds and pop-ups. In December of 1930, Herbert Hoover said “depression” 50 times in a speech that was 25% shorter than Obama’s 2011 address. That left no doubt about economic conditions and pulse of the time.

social infographics, cultural trendspotting, interactive technology, political branding, wordcounting, tag clouds, measurement

Obama illustration: © Janet Giampietro
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