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Word clouds an effective tool for speech visualization

Word clouds have been popping up around the net for some time, but have yet to make a splash as a tool for journalism (see the category section in the right rail or this Entertainment Weekly graphic for examples).

Using a word cloud tool is a quick and easy way to examine the frequency of any long block of text, written or spoken. With a quick glance one can tell what the major themes of said text are. For example, here are the 50 most frequently spoken words in Hillary Clinton’s speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. The larger font size corresponds to a higher frequency:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

adopt americans babies believes bill boys care chelsea child children daughter doctor family fathers friend girls health hospital husband important insurance jobs kids law leave making million mothers nation night parents pay president progress raise responsible school sick signed support sure takes talk teachers thank think today values volunteers work

One could easily gather that Sen. Clinton was concerned about children and families. Here is a similar analysis of Barack Obama’s keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

america american belief believes best blue child choice country don dreams election expect face faith families father feel government grandfather hard health hope jobs john kerry lieutenant life man met nation opportunity people re red return son stand states story study talking think tonight united ve war work world young

Sen. Obama’s pervasive message of hope for America is evident in his speech. And finally an analysis of John McCain’s address to the 2004 Republican National Convention:

<!– #htmltagcloud2{ font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:bold; line-height:2.4em; word-spacing:normal; letter-spacing:normal; text-decoration:none; text-transform:none; text-align:justify; text-indent:0ex; border:2px dotted #ddd; padding:2em}#htmltagcloud2 a:link{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:visited{text-decoration:none}#htmltagcloud2 a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#05f}#htmltagcloud2 a:active{text-decoration:none;color:white;background-color:#03d}span.tagcloud0{font-size:1.0em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:10;position:relative}span.tagcloud0 a{text-decoration:none; color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud1{font-size:1.4em;padding:0em;color:#ACC1F3;z-index:9;position:relative}span.tagcloud1 a{text-decoration:none;color:#ACC1F3}span.tagcloud2{font-size:1em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:8;position:relative}span.tagcloud2 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud3{font-size:1.3em;padding:0em;color:#86A0DC;z-index:7;position:relative}span.tagcloud3 a{text-decoration:none;color:#86A0DC}span.tagcloud4{font-size:1.6em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:6;position:relative}span.tagcloud4 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud5{font-size:1.9em;padding:0em;color:#607EC5;z-index:5;position:relative}span.tagcloud5 a{text-decoration:none;color:#607EC5}span.tagcloud6{font-size:2.2em;padding:0em;color:#4C6DB9;z-index:4;position:relative}span.tagcloud6 a{text-decoration:none;color:#4C6DB9}span.tagcloud7{font-size:2.5em;padding:0em;color:#395CAE;z-index:3;position:relative}span.tagcloud7 a{text-decoration:none;color:#395CAE}span.tagcloud8{font-size:2.8em;padding:0em;color:#264CA2;z-index:2;position:relative}span.tagcloud8 a{text-decoration:none;color:#264CA2}span.tagcloud9{font-size:3.1em;padding:0em;color:#133B97;z-index:1;position:relative}span.tagcloud9 a{text-decoration:none;color:#133B97}span.tagcloud10{font-size:3.3em;padding:0em;color:#002A8B;z-index:0;position:relative}span.tagcloud10

11th against alone america americans arm believe better blessed bush country courage destroyed differences diplomacy doubt enemies fight freedom friends generation human love military moment nation party people president promised quo re resolve responsibility sacrifices saddam safe security share stand status stronger terrible threat times war weapons world wrong years

It’s obvious that the Senator had war on the brain. Thanks to American Rhetoric for the text from their bank of speeches. The visual analysis was created using TagCrowd, a free and simple tool for analyzing text or even whole webpages. More tagging tools can be found at Mashable.

The New York Times takes speech visualization a step further by organizing the discussion between Senators Obama and Clinton and moderator Brian Williams at the Feb. 26 Democratic debate. Each contributor’s words are grouped into blocks that, when rolled over, show that portion of the talk. The visualization is useful for seeing who spoke more and how the candidates went back and forth.

The visualization tool at Many Eyes can also be used to compare the two speeches or any two blocks of text. Although the future Democratic candidates were not campaigning just yet, using the tool one would discover both Obama and Clinton favored the words America, belief/believe, child, family, health, jobs, nation and work in their speeches.

Many Eyes’ Word Tree visualization is also useful for seeing how words and phrases are repeated in any given text. The site uses Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as an example, but it could also be useful for analyzing songs, poetry, or other monologues with repetition. Speech visualization is not just for politics, but for any great talk or monologue that could benefit from a quick analysis.

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