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Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture 1st Edition
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The title of this book, "Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture," suggests that it will be a general text on Big Data, but it is not. It covers only this body of work by these two researchers and their assistants.
The book repeats the contents of that 2011 article, explaining the results for the general public, adding some discussion of the origins of the work and the researchers' thoughts about the future. In the process, they expand the original piece, which was about six pages long excluding notes, to about 220 pages. Some of the new material is fun; I got a kick out the story about a romance novel that had been alphabetized and the information that could still be gleaned from it. Others seem like padding; who cares about this history of lexical concordances?
It's a shame that Aiden & Michel wrote this book themselves; the same material coming from a third party would not have seemed so self-congratualtory and, sometimes, smug.Read more ›
They came up with an idea to make a tool that could query Google's digitized library in order to determine word frequencies. Using the tool they invented, called the Google Ngram Viewer, they have been able to answer interesting questions that relate to word frequencies, explore how language changes over time, assess the adoption of new technology, assess fame, and conjecture as to how the answers to the questions they pose reflect on the prevailing culture.
Although the idea is simple in concept, it wasn't so simple in execution. They had to wiggle their way into the Googleverse to get permission to use the database, write a lot of code, and iron out certain legal/copyright problems. But once all this was done, the magic began.
I won't go into detail about their findings, but suffice it to say, they not only created the Ngram Viewer but used it intelligently to come to some very interesting (and often humorous) conclusions. Their analogy of Ngram Viewer as a modern equivalent of Galileo's telescope is an apt one. Without the telescope, Galileo couldn't have made some of his most important astronomic observations. Without the Ngram Viewer, it would be much impossible to look at; things like the transformation of irregular verbs over time or get a good idea when writers really started to refer to The United States in the singular (the results are surprising).Read more ›
In an interview with Studio 360`s Kurt Andersen, Aiden and Michele said how pleased they are that the new technology can open up academic research to the "independently curious."
"It's good that a tool that's at the leading edge of science can generate so much enthusiasm in the general public." Michele cautions however, "it's inevitable that a tool like that will generate a large number of discussions that are actually irrelevant or that are flat-out wrong . . . it's still important that bona fide experts are the ones interpreting the research." 
In their new book Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture, however, they are nowhere near so humble about the so-called "big data revolution," nor are they convinced about the value of "bona fide experts."
"At its core, this big data revolution is about how humans create and preserve a historical record of their activities. Its consequences will transform how we look at ourselves. It will enable the creation of new scopes that make it possible for our society to more effectively probe its own nature. Big data is going to change the humanities, transform the social sciences, and renegotiate the relationship between the world of commerce and the ivory tower.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a fun and entertaining read. It starts with a unique set of data becoming available for the first time in human history. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Philippe Vandenbroeck
It was an interesting introduction to the use of big data. I have passed the book along to another amazed friend.Published 7 months ago by James Smith
Interesting, but as usual the Kindle version does not show the illustrations well.Published 14 months ago by Amazon Customer
Big data has been defined as having three qualities: a) volume (if you don't have a lot of data then it's not big data), b) variety (new types of data like text, sensor readings,... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Edward Torpy
Not only interesting info on Big Data itself, but the best I've seen on an actual use of BD. It really is addictive and has been useful in identifying the parameters of a study... Read morePublished 17 months ago by jackielit
An interesting look at the evolution of data availability and how it is and will influence our lives. Perhaps most interesting was introduction to the Google N-gram Viewer. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Gordon
An interesting read.
Highlighted some interesting points about the English language.
Wasn't too interested to hear so much about the history of the project, 50% less... Read more
One of the most annoying things about the recent film _Her_, is that the principle humanimal character is given access to a sentient machine cogitator that has full access to all... Read morePublished 22 months ago by TinyWanda