Archaeology of New Media


The map above shows a preliminary attempt to use the tremendous amount of linguistic data being produced on the web to understand how language works. Jack Grieve, a forensic linguist at Aston University in the UK, has been looking through 6 billion words collected from Twitter. Following a discussion with fellow linguist Mark Lieberman—a prolific blogger who has long been interested in the “um”/”uh” divide—Grieve decided to look through his corpus of tweets to see how the two words compared. They started their exploration with data from America.

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2 Responses to Archaeology of New Media

  1. Do you mean to say you wonder about social data analytics in general, or perceived frivolous data collection in particular? In this case in particular, I could imagine something useful falling out of this data for a linguist. For instance, linguists might be able to use this regional distribution to better excavate local histories of dialect—the knowledge of which could help someone like Grieve who presumably (as a forensic linguist) would be interested in treatment and usage of linguistic evidence offered in court.

    I do not know what other variables Grieve collected, since these are only preliminary results. However, the meaning of correlation between variables would, as always, be available for interpretation.

    More than the content of this survey, I find analyzing new media for social data to be fascinating just for its method. In connection with our reading, even the possibility of this study neatly demonstrates Manovich’s principles admitting novel manipulation of new media objects 🙂

  2. Amy Wolfe says:

    I always wonder about these types of studies. What exactly are they studying and why? Does it really mean anything to discover who says “um” and who says “uh”? Is there really a gender divide in the use of these terms and if there is what does that mean? Also, I wonder how did the researcher discover the gender/sex of the people tweeting? Many twitter handles and descriptions don’t identify if the user is male or female. In her book The War on Learning Losh discussed the twitter handles of her students in her CAT125 class and how many of her students wished to remain anonymous. And what about the subversive act of portraying yourself as one thing on twitter which is opposite or different then what you truly are. I also wonder if the researcher took into account or even considered the users race and class status. Do those distinctions effect a person’s usage pattern of “um” and “uh” and if it does then I have the same question I started with, what does that mean?

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