computer-assisted text analysis: bush’s state of the union addresses

Via Crooked Timber comes this link to a tool you can use at the New York Times website to analyze the content of all of President Bush’s State of the Union speeches.

This is a fascinating and powerful demonstration of computer-assisted text analysis. Technologies of reading facilitate traditions of reading. Think of the ways in which a book’s index, table of contents, running heads, and page numbers all contribute to your effective use of that book. These typographical features allow for and even encourage nonlinear reading: we can drop in at any point in the book, perhaps led there by an entry in the index or in the table of contents, and know where we are, thanks to the running heads and the page numbers.

Here, the NYT has created, in a visually eloquent format, an example of a new kind of reading enabled by electronic texts. It’s very well done, and not so complex that the average online reader can’t figure out what to do. However, this kind of presentation is not universal enough for all of us to agree on the best way to proceed or the significance of the results.

Here are some suggested words to search for:

  • africa
  • sudan
  • aids
  • humanitarian
  • weapon
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