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June 22, 2006

State of the Union


Mapping the Union addresses

State of the Union (SOTU) provides access to the corpus of all the State of the Union addresses from 1790 to 2006. SOTU allows you to explore how specific words gain and lose prominence over time, and to link to information on the historical context for their use. SOTU focuses on the relationship between individual addresses as compared to the entire collection of addresses, highlighting what is different about the selected document. You are invited to try and understand from this information the connection between politics and language–between the state we are in, and the language which names it and calls it into being.

The Words: SOTU maps the significant content of each State of the Union address so that users can appreciate its key terms and their relative importance. The horizontal axis is simply alphabetical. The vertical axis displays the word’s significance, determined by comparing how frequently the word occurs in the document to how frequently it appears throughout the entire body of SOTU addresses (see appendix for details).

Common words (“and,” “the,” etc.) and words that occur frequently in the entire corpus (“states”) are largely filtered out; what remains are words that are especially characteristic of a given address. The size of the word indicates how many times it was used in the document. Click the word to view the full text of the address with the word highlighted.

The Data: The data underneath the map of significant words shows trends in the language of the State of the Union addresses. On the graph, white bars indicate the word length of each address. The red dots indicate readability as measured by the address’s Flesch-Kincaid score, which is meant to suggest the grade level in an American school for which the text is comprehensible. The actual scores are displayed in the bottom right corner of the interface (for more information on Flesch-Kincaid, see the appendix).

State of the Union is a project by Brad Borevitz at onetwothree.net

Posted by luis at June 22, 2006 12:33 PM