Over the past couple of days, two remarkable new tools have become available for social scientists of all stripes who are interested in visualizing data.
The New York Times Mapping America project uses data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2005-2009 to give a block-by-block visualization of the ethnic composition of census tracts and individual neighbourhoods down to the block level. As someone who works in Detroit, by most accounts the most segregated city in the country, this is a really neat tool, especially for teaching purposes, to discuss how ethnic separation emerges, and where it doesn’t.
Then Google released its Books Ngram Viewer, which allows you to trace and compare the relative frequency of words or phrases in any of ten subsections of the total Google Books corpus of over five million volumes. If this had existed a couple of months ago I would have had all my students hunting through this like mad for their Lexiculture projects (along with existing corpus data like COCA and COHA, which are, for all their scholarly value, much smaller bodies of text).
Check them out, and let me know what you think.