Google Books Ngram Viewer and Datasets or Culturomics or Freakumanities

December 23rd, 2010 by Clay Williams

With the launch of the Culturomics website and the article in Sciencexpress as mentioned on Hunter-L this week, one should immediately  consider consulting  Dan Cohen’s blog. Professor Cohen,who might be known to some as the developer of the bibliographic software, Zotero, which is an extension of the browser Firefox. ( I would urge all who haven’t  to look into Zotero.) Cohen, Director of  Center for History and New Media, teaches History at George Mason University in Virginia and  has over 4300 followers on Twitter as well.

Getting back to Culturomics, Cohen supplies  a succinct analysis of what he sees as an exciting area of study; he does mention that the authors of the article have, by using this new term, laid claim to being a bit more pioneering than they actually deserve.  But, as Cohen further admits, the Ngram article will introduce many to digital collections and what can be culled from collections like Google Books.

Consider that 15 million books have been digitized, which is about 12% of all the books ever published, and this project has selected a subset somewhere above 5 million of those to use as a sample. Some of the topics the authors  consider include “Detection of Censorship and Suppression,” wherein they  compare the frequency of  Marc Chagall’s name in English and in German books and analyze this within the parameters  of particular years of the Twentieth Century

They are also trying to study the phenomenon of celebrity and looking at people, professions, and gender, among other factors.  Alas, mathematicians don’t fare well,  but, regardless, please look at the article and  subscribe to Professor Cohen’s blog as well as consider how faculty and students can make use of this new research tool.

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