Fun with Google Books Ngram Viewer
Today we tried out a number of data mining programs. I like the term “data mining:” it seems an appropriate way to think about digging deep, with some goal in mind, finding raw glittery things that need to be handed off to a skilled person to consider, judge, cut, polish, and set.
Graphs can be really compelling, for they so swiftly and decisively draw conclusions from piles of data–in this case, books published from 19th to 20th centuries analyzed for the frequency with which words appear. They’re also dangerous, I know, for they are certainly light on nuance. But I guess that is the role of the scholar: to understand the context and ask the further questions to properly position data that appears so spiffy and commanding into a broader consideration—or, alternately, to just go ahead and use it as proof of the devastation brought to centuries of architectural tradition (beauty) with the advent of anti-aesthetic concepts (space). Especially considering this graph, in which the lines cross at 1907–the very year that Peter Behrens was named design director for the A.E.G.!–I can maybe see how a person might be tempted to do that.