The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Lost in the Clouds

January 27, 2011

Drew Conway discusses the evils of word clouds. He doesn’t go far enough: the meaning of speeches and texts depends on the order and proximity of words, not the frequency of their appearance.

Consider the two wordles below of famous addresses.

Wordle: Ihazdream

Wordle: Ihazbloodswettears

They’re both meaningless hash. They tell us virtually nothing of any importance about the two speeches.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.