Wow, I just discovered Wordle. This is an exciting online service that will take text and generate a word cloud of the text for you.
You can either paste some text into the box – from documents, ppts, or websites for example, or you can enter the name of a website – for instance a blog, and have that analyzed.
Here is a sample from text that I copied from a number of articles on the Anecdote site:
So, apart from just being cool, what is the use of something like this? I think it shows very cleverly what the repeating issues of texts are, and thus can help to see what kind of tone or even emotions it will call forth. Apart from the sentence meaning, what is the general impression fostered by the text?
Want to see if your wonderful treatise about the joy of life really does reflect a spirit of joy? Try plugging the text in here, if the biggest word you see is “problem” and “joy” is rather small, well, draw your own conclusions!
Things happen, circumstances exist, and we give them meaning through our stories about them and our interpretations. In this way, we each “construct” our own reality.
Picture this: 3 people standing on a sidewalk, A, B, and C – now a snake slithers by, A screams and runs, B looks at it, and C says “hey cool, its a mamba!”.
The point? All three saw the same snake => one common circumstance. All three had very different experiences and reactions, due to their individual realities, which are based on past experiences, likes and dislikes, beliefs and choices they have made.
So there were actually 3 realities resulting out of one circumstance.
Now: not only do we “do this” to ourselves, but our opinions and beliefs are acted upon each day not only by our family, friends and peers, but also by media, films, advertising etc. Someone who watches only Fox News has a certain view of the world, and if you get your information from Alternet you probably have opposing ideas. Sometimes almost all (people, media, etc) push the same agenda.
In the summer of 2002, my husband and I (we live in Austria) were in the US for 3 weeks traveling. As a kind of “ex-pat” I made sure we watched news wherever possible – my husband and I were absolutely flabbergasted at the picture being painted of Iraq – we came home to Vienna and told our friends that war was inevitable. No-one believed it, in Europe we had had a very different perception of the situation.
The point? We all thought that the internet, with its freedom to connect with anyone, anywhere, would finally remove this kind of manipulation. Well, as I have found out: that belief is absolutely wrong!
Watch this TED Talk and draw your own conclusions – this is why, when you and your friend do a search for the identical topic in Google, you get very different results. That is because both Facebook and Google have “personalized” their search algorithms to incorporate what they know about you from other data that they have gathered about you.
So what? Well, yes, on the one hand that may be convenient at times, on the other hand, it will tend to reinforce your world view and opinions – if you always look for the Fox News site, the chances that Google will offer you the Guardian are presumably slim.
Again, in research this might be a good thing – but it also might not – what I find personally disturbing is that you are not informed about this personalizing – you naively believe that “this is what there is” to see about a certain topic. Personally, I would prefer an option to “opt out” of personalization, but at the very least, I want to see what hidden criteria were added to my searches by the algorithms.
How do you feel about this? Is there something that we want to or can do about this?