I got home fairly quickly and I was still wired so I thought I’d play a little on Wordle. I tooled around a little bit trying out my own work I have saved on the computer and also some historical documents. I also fiddled with the RSS feed input and pulled up some blogs, including my own. Below are four that I saved.
First: The Declaration of Independence. I expected “people”, “government” and “rights” to be big. I was surprised with how big “laws” were. “Assent” and “Consent” popped out to me as well. When I think about what’s in the Declaration, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I expected more about abuses, and that words like “usurpations” would be bigger.
Second: The Constitution. The expected words are huge: “United”, “States”, “Constitution”, “President”, and “Congress”. What was interesting about this was which words were small. “Citizen” and “Citizens” are both tiny. Also, “America” is so small I nearly missed it – it’s in the middle, between “two” and “section”. Most of the legal words are small as well – “treason”, “bill”, “court”, “senator”, “elector”.
Third: my class blog. The biggest word? “Site”. I thought at first this would only pull from one post, but it appears to pull the entire first page, showing some words I KNOW I didn’t use in the last post but I’ve used recently. Now, I tried to get it to pull the RSS feed for my recent favorite blog post, but the post is now about a month old and it didn’t make it into the cloud. I’ll have to pull the text of the post itself into the creator.
Fourth: My final papers from the Fall 2008 Semester. OK, this one fulfilled my expectations – the biggest words were “women” and “war”. Go figure. What is most interesting to me requires explanation. One paper included the phrase “North Pacific theater”. Note that “Pacific” and “theater” are both larger than “north”. What this says to me is that I also used the phrase “Pacific Theater” but not the phrases “European theater” or “North African Theater” over all three of my papers. Another thing that surprised me is the size of the words “women’s” and “movement”. Two of the papers were World War II historiographies and the third was on second wave radical feminism. I thought the words from that paper, including “feminists”, “radical” and “black” would be tiny, giving me a picture much closer to the Declaration or the Constitution.
What I’ve drawn from this is that what we can fool ourselves into finding or not finding things. I fully expected certain words to show up, and some of them did. Others did not. This was especially true with the Constitution and my blog. I also expected other words to disappear, especially in my Fall 2008 papers. So what’s the greater meaning and utility of sites like Wordle.net? That it challenges our assumptions, especially over large amounts of text*. It’s another check on our biases, which to me is always good.
I haven’t fiddled with the Many Eyes Visualizer yet, so that is for another post.
*Typing the wrapup, I remembered that I wanted to check out what would happen to Homer’s Odyssey. Just for laughs.)