Innovation Spotlight: Word Clouds

While watching President Obama’s news conference on the economy the other evening on CNN, I was struck by how powerfully the news organization used a word cloud to analyze the ideas, content and themes within Obama’s opening remarks.

Besides being a magnificent typographical work of art worthy of exhibition at MoMA, the Obama word cloud also served as catalyst for lively debates between moderators who exchanged viewpoints about the meaning and context implied by the size and weight of Obama’s words.

Word clouds, for those who are new to the word-mapping tool, are a poster-like visual representation highlighting the frequency with which a word appears in text (or spoken in a speech); the bigger the word in the cloud, the more times it appears in the text or speech.

“Keyword” clouds are used by web designers to display the content available on a site and quickly indicate the most popular areas based on frequency of visits; the bigger the keyword, the more people visited that area.

Word cloud technology is a relatively new tool for interpreting and understanding the world around us. There are countless applications for it in art & design, media, education and business. If you are doing something innovative with it, we want to know.

Word cloud based on Obama's Inaugural Address

Creating your own word cloud:

Words clouds aren’t difficult to learn to program. In fact, Wordle offers a simple and easy way to generate your own word cloud. All you need to do is cut and paste your text into the website… and it automatically generates a cloud from your content. It also allows you to customize your word cloud in a range of different colors, styles and layouts.