Google Visualizes Words & Culture

Since 2004, Google has dig­i­tized more than 15 mil­lion books, most­ly to build its Google Books ser­vice. But yes­ter­day Google Labs released a nice lit­tle spin­off prod­uct, the Ngram View­er, that pro­vides a win­dow into how we have his­tor­i­cal­ly used words, and what these usages say about our cul­ture.

This new visu­al­iza­tion tool lets you map out the usage of a giv­en word, or series of words, over a 200 year peri­od (1800 — 2008). For exam­ple, the Ngram View­er shows us that we think less about  “war” these days, as com­pared to the 1940s and 1960s, and more about “ter­ror­ism.” (Click the links to “war” and “ter­ror­ism” and you will see what I mean.) Sim­i­lar­ly, the Eng­lish speak­ing world has recent­ly renewed its love affair with the dog vis-a-vis cats. And if you invest­ed in sal­sa and bailed on ketchup in 1980, you would be a pret­ty wealthy per­son right now.

Over­all, the Ngram data­base con­tains rough­ly 5.2 mil­lion books (a sub­set of the larg­er Google Books data­base), with some 500 bil­lion words, and it fea­tures texts in Chi­nese, Eng­lish, French, Ger­man, Russ­ian, and Span­ish. Get more details here.

via @webacion and @eugenephoto

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Intro­duc­ing the New Google eBook­store (with Free Clas­sics)

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