(In the spirit of Guest Blogger week, and as part of our ongoing State of the Union festivities, here is a bonus entry by Eric Bonabeau, a theoretical physicist who is the founder and CEO of the Icosystem company. He is originally from France and is now based in Santa Fe, NM.)
By Eric Bonabeau
The more avid readers of TheAtlantic.com may have noticed that a strange "Trending on the Site" box appeared last September on the right hand side of the page. It uses a tool called Infomous to provide a visual summary of the most recent topics added to the site across all the channels.
I am partial to Infomous not just because it has been developed by my colleagues at Icosystem, but also because I have become addicted to it for visualizing complex topics. Unlike the great-looking Wordle (www.wordle.net, or see the NPR poll results), Infomous provides some semantic context by connecting words that represent concepts which appear together in a document, a set of documents, or a speech. Consider for example the following snapshot, comparing the SOTU addresses from 2010 and 2011 (you can play with it yourself and change the number of words, and more, here.) The little "bubbles" you see are clusters of words that appeared together in the address. Frankly, the tone may have changed, but the content is quite stable.
A more subtle analysis, I am sure, will reveal all the differences -that is, if Jim Fallows finds his annotations. [They finally appeared -- here!] But contrast this with the obvious and substantial differences you can see between Obama's speech in Tucson two weeks ago and Palin's statement. So, go ahead, visualize and make your own opinion.