Wordle to the rescue (on assimilable worlds)

Wordlenet_self_funding_anthropologi In the era of Web 2.0, miracles are so commonplace that I’ve grown a little jaded.  And then along comes something like Wordle.

Yes, we have seen things like this before, but something about this idea now, or perhaps it’s this execution here, made my job drop. 

This is a clever bit of code that creates a beautiful object that creates new powers of pattern recognition that creates an assimilable world.

What Jonathan Feinberg’s program does for us is roughly what academics do when they pick up a book and start with the index. 

Wordlenet_yesterday_2 I know a Harvard professor who can look at the index of a book, and give you a pretty good idea of the shape and content of the argument within.  It’s an impressive party trick. 

The first image is from the post I did last week on "how to be a self funding anthropologist." 

The second image is from yesterday’s post on transformational identities. 

Wordlenet_today
And the third image is today’s post.  I wouldn’t want to have to read the post from the Wordle, but can that day be far off?

There is a general feeling in some circle, see especially Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson, that we are getting better at reading popular culture, that our powers of assimilation and pattern recognition are growing apace. 

All of us do something like this when we look at the index, table of contents, and browse a couple of pages, and make a determination about whether to buy or not.  We have not quite read the book, but we have made it’s acquaintance.  Something lodged.  Our cloud of ideas has reshaped a little.

There is something about the beauty of these images and their implicit conviction that the form of the idea is a guide to the content of the idea.  How does Wordle know?  But it does, and it’s knowing aids my knowing.  This feels like the beginning of a new order of information architecture and design. 

As we get better and smarter, I wonder if Wordle won’t be the future.  Can it be long before we send new blog posts, articles and books to Wordle and read the output? 

Hats off to Jonathan Feinberg, a senior software engineer at IBM research in Medford, MA and total genius.

References

Find the Wordle website here.

To an anonymous blogger: hat’s off for the head’s up

22 thoughts on “Wordle to the rescue (on assimilable worlds)”

  1. the link to the wordle website didn’t work for me.

    can you check it and see if it’s your link, or my firewall?

  2. The URL problem is that the link it being “pre-pended” with the address of this page. I suspect that it needs the full “http://” in front of the address so the blog software (or browser) treat it as a fully qualified URL and not relative to the page/site. Here’s the link to the site: http://www.wordle.net

  3. You know I completely agree with you on your post… except for one thing;

    >To an anonymous blogger: hat’s off for the head’s up

    I’d hardly imagine the blogger’s anonymous. It may be true that they write under a pseudonym or don’t disclose complete details of their life. But I find it unlikely that they’re in the same spirit as a fly-by-night commenter whom you have no way of further identifying.

    Why not include a link to them? Why not give them true credit? There’s no shame in connecting the chains here. I can’t fathom any reason why you’d “acknowledge” them so callously.

    Imagine if it were someone building the value chain from one of your posts and didn’t reciprocate? Not only would they be diminished, you’d be diminished, and the great interconnected webs we all weave would lose something in the process too.

  4. Jay,

    Not to start a flame war, but if you’re suggesting Grant has some nefarious reason for not acknowledging the person who brought this to his attention, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Grant may have misplaced the email, the person may have requested anonymity or there may be another reason. But I know Grant well enough to know he’s not trying to roger somebody.

  5. RE: rogering somebody.

    And Wordle has been circulating widely enough by now that finding the first reference would be like finding the first wave in a gust over water.

    RE: wordle.

    I wonder how long before someone creates an add-on for folks to create their wordle cloud representation then one-click the image onto a t-shirt. I’d buy that.

  6. This reminds me of Woody Allen’s joke about learning to speed read and getting through War & Peace in a half-hour. All he could say was “it’s about Russia.” Does anyone here really think that any of the content of Grant’s posts is captured by these word clouds? Cause all I’m getting is “it’s about culture.”

  7. Peter: Here’s what Urban Dictionary says about the verb, to Roger: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?page=1&term=roger

    I’ve always felt it meant to screw someone over.

    Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  8. Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  9. Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  10. Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  11. This reminds me of Woody Allen’s joke about learning to speed read and getting through War & Peace in a half-hour. All he could say was “it’s about Russia.” Does anyone here really think that any of the content of Grant’s posts is captured by these word clouds? Cause all I’m getting is “it’s about culture.”

  12. This reminds me of Woody Allen’s joke about learning to speed read and getting through War & Peace in a half-hour. All he could say was “it’s about Russia.” Does anyone here really think that any of the content of Grant’s posts is captured by these word clouds? Cause all I’m getting is “it’s about culture..

  13. Ilahin, my notion here, insufficiently expressed was that if we are all getting smarter, and we are, could we look forward to the day where all you need to do is give the paradigmatic entries and their relative weight, and the reader will assemble.  But thanks for a great comment.  And personally I love that Woody Allan joke.  Best, Grant

  14. Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  15. Steven Postrel – I think you do need some context for these wordles. Here’s how I intend to use them: Take all the words from a client brief and create a wordle, which hopefully will highlight key words for the brand and help direct our thinking in a creative session.

  16. Ilahin, my notion here, insufficiently expressed was that if we are all getting smarter, and we are, could we look forward to the day where all you need to do is give the paradigmatic entries and their relative weight, and the reader will assemble. But thanks for a great comment. And personally I love that Woody Allan joke. Best, Grant

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