Today I gave a short talk at the Digital Synergies Launch Event. The launch included neat talks by colleagues including:
I showed and talked about Lexigraphi.ca – The Dictionary of Worlds in the Wild. This is a social site where people can upload pictures of text outside of books and documents and tag the words – text like tatoos, graffiti, store signs and other forms of public textuality.
Google has release a neat new tool that uses their Google Books database. The Google Ngram Viewer lets you plot the relative frequencies of words and phrases over time.
Information about the tool can be found at, http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/info.
The graph above shows truth (blue) graphed against false (red).
Save The Words is a neat social project set up by the Oxford University Press where you can “adopt” a rarely used word like “egrote” (to feign an illness). If you adopt a word then the idea is that you will use it in various ways. The site suggests you could name a pet with the word, get a tatoo, walk around with a signboard and so on.
Old words, wise words, hard-working words. Words that once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved and unwanted.
You can change all that. Help save the worlds.
The interface to the project is also worth noting. The Flash interface has a wall of words in different fonts and on different surfaces as if photographs of words in contexts. A faux version of our Dictionary of Words in the Wild.
I came across this example of text analysis in the wild using a wordle, Steve Jobs’s Android Obsession Analyzed. The short article is by David Zax in Fast Company (October 19, 2010.) Based on “Android” coming up as the highest frequency content word Zax reads obsession.
So yes, the Android weighs heavily upon Jobs’s mind; and his dreams are more than likely populated with ravenous green robots consuming everything in their path.
I came across an artist, Sam Winston, whose work often explores language. For example Darwin (see image above) compares Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Ruth Padel’s Darwin, A Life In Poems.
Some of the panels/pages in Darwin are visualizations, even if hand drawn.
Many of his other works also play with language and language artifacts like Folded Dictionary.
GHOSTSIGNS.CO.UK is a site dedicated to the hand painted advertising murals that we often see like ghosts of text on the sides of buildings. The site presents itself as,
a collaborative national effort to photograph, research and archive the remaining examples of hand painted wall advertising in the UK and Ireland.
The images of these ghostsigns are up on a Flickr group pool. See also HAT (History of Advertising Trust) web site which has a gallery.
Hurrah! The Dictionary of Words in the Wild has reached 5000 images. A photo going up:
Lian pointed me to another visual thesaurus/dictionary called Visuwords. It uses WordNet from Princeton. I like how they have a rich set of visual relations between items from “derivation” to “is a kind of”.
The Globe and Mail has a review of the Lawrence Weiner show at the The Power Plant in Toronto (who must have one of the worst gallery web sites I’ve seen in a long time – lots of navigation for no content in very small type!) e-flux has a better site about the show.
The Globe and Mail article, “Brilliantly maddening word sculptures” by Gary Michael Dault (Thursday, March 19th, 2009, Section R, p. 1) nicely explores the issues around language and art raised by such conceptual work. Dault walked through the show with Weiner and Dault ends the articles with,
We talk about whether language actually means anything at all. â€œLanguage does mean something,â€ Weiner contends gaily, â€œbut not what you thought it meant.â€ There’s the other side of a cul-de-sac for you.
Weiner’s sculpture with words goes back to the 1960s. His Declaration of Intent (1968) articulates a relationship between instructions for a work of art and the fabricated work.
“1. The artist may construct the piece. 2. The piece may be fabricated. 3. The piece need not be built. Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.”
Does it matter if the work is actually put together from bits and pieces? Do the bits and pieces of social media (like the bits of blog entires, or the pictures of words in the Dictionary) make a whole or its semblance?
The Telegraph has run a series of “Sign Language” picture galleries of photos submitted by readers. The The best of Sign Language gathers some of the best of these collections of funny signs. While many play on poor English translations, some are amusing photographic juxtapositions of signs and backgrounds like this one:
Such sign humor is a way into noticing words in the wild, but ultimately such signs are not how text works in public signage.