Re: Word-use spikes

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Sun 02 Mar 2003 - 06:29:52 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: memetics-digest V1 #1294"

    >From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    >To: <>
    >Subject: Word-use spikes
    >Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2003 21:08:03 -0500
    >By Will Knight
    >New Scientist
    >February 18, 2003
    >Searching for sudden "bursts" in the usage of particular words could be
    >to rapidly identify new trends and sort information more efficiently, says
    >US computer scientist.
    >Jon Kleinberg, at Cornell University in New York, has developed computer
    >algorithms that identify bursts of word use in documents.
    >While other popular search techniques simply count the number of words or
    >phrases in documents, Kleinberg's approach also takes into account the rate
    >at which the word usage increases.
    >Kleinberg suggests that the method could be applied to weblogs to track new
    >social trends. For example, identifying word bursts in the hundreds of
    >thousands of personal diaries now on the web could help advertisers quickly
    >spot an emerging craze.
    >Hot or not
    >The algorithms used to identify these sudden bursts are relatively simple,
    >but very powerful, says Christos Papadimitriou, at the University of
    >California at Berkeley.
    >"The key is to find unexpected changes in the frequency of the appearance
    >words," he told New Scientist. Papadimitriou agrees the method could prove
    >valuable when searching for new trends in weblogs.
    >The approach could also be applied to sifting through other types of
    >information. Identifying word bursts within email messages sent to a
    >company's customer support address might help maintenance staff spot a
    >new problem.
    >Researchers at Google, the world's most widely used internet search engine,
    >have already shown that identifying spikes in search terms can be used to
    >track the spread of news and rumours around the world. The algorithms that
    >run Google's automated news aggregation service remain secret, but it is
    >difficult to imagine that word bursts could, or do, have a useful role.
    >In a simple historical test of the technique, Kleinberg analysed all the
    >annual State of the Union addresses given by US Presidents since 1790. He
    >found that particular word "bursts" could indeed be linked to important
    >events at the time the speeches were delivered.
    >In the years that immediately followed the American Revolution, for
    >sudden bursts in the use of words such as "militia", "British" and
    >are found.
    >From 1930 to 1937 a spike in the use of the word "depression" is seen.
    Gee. I wonder why... Could it be that the Great Depression was a reality within that time period?
    >from 1949 to 1959 "atomic" is the word with the greatest "burstiness".
    Atomic is bursty in another way, but it's not surprising that the word
    "atomic" would spike when the reality of Hiroshima and the subsequent arms race ht home.
    >in the 20th century, words such as "Vietnam",
    Well, I'd suppose that if there was a military act^H^H^H^H^war going on in Vietnam, that country's name might be mentioned a tad more.
    "Soviet", "communist" and
    >"Afghanistan" increase sharply in usage.
    Gee, I wonder why Afghanistan might have spiked recently. It's almost trivial to point it out, but if one wishes to shoehorn historical data into a cubbyhole of word usage trends, you'll have plenty of word usage trends subsequent to historical events that bring those words into the forefront.
    >Kleinberg presents his findings on Tuesday at the American Association for
    >the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Denver, Colorado.
    I'd predict that popular uttering of the names of the stars of the television show "Friends" spiked sharply after that show first appeared and became popular. I could be wrong, but it's just a sneaking suspicion I have. I have no idea why...

    In professional football (not soccer or rugby-like facsimiles), there may have been word spikes over the past decade for terms like "run and shoot offense" and "west coast offense".

    All kidding aside, I suppose this information on bursting could be useful, to marketers especially.

    I've subjectively noticed a very annoying tend in usage of the word
    "absolutely". I don't know what the heck is going on with people feeling the need to utter this word in such emotive manners, but it needs to stop. Has anybody else noticed this trend? It's like the "fershure" of the 00's, except I don't think Zappa or offspring had anything to do with it this time around.

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