Culturomics of Science, Design, and Culture


Apparently you can teach old dogs new tricks. The humanities just got a fancy new method of conducting historical analysis of documents by observing the frequency of words in archived documents using Google Books, culturomics. Leading the charge is mathematician Jean-Baptiste Michel in Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. Michel and several co-authors recently published Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books in the January 14, 2011 issue of Science Magazine. Since making the front page of the New York Times, the arts & sciences have been in a tizzy thinking about all the new research opportunities. One project that used the tool was The Science Hall of Fame created and curated by Adrian Veres and John Bohannon on the AAAS website, Science, that lists the frequency of scientists in the digital book database using 'milliDarwins' as they comparable unit of measurement.

We ran our own little word search using Google Labs Book Ngram Viewer and came up with the above graph indicating the frequency of 'science, design, and culture' in the digital database. According to this graph, we were quite enlightened at the turn of the millennium but not so much after the big event. Try it out, let the kids take it for a spin, and see how your favorite people and words have fared in the written word over the last 200 years or so.

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