TEDxBoston 2011

Erez Lieberman Aiden, Jean-Baptiste Michel

A Picture is Worth 500 Billion Words

What the words in 5 million digitized books can teach us about cultural shifts over the last 500 years

Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel from Harvard University use the 15 million books scanned and digitized by Google to show how a visual and quantitative analysis of text can provide insights about fields as diverse as lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology.


What can we learn about cultural trends from 15 million books digitized by Google? Lieberman-Aiden and Michel show how a visual and quantitative analysis of text can provide insights about fields as diverse as lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology. You can explore the data online at ngrams.googlelabs.com.


Curator’s Pick: “[Google’s digtized books] are very practical and extremely awesome.”


For more about Erez, Jean-Baptiste, and their project visit: www.erez.com   www.jbmichel.com   www.culturomics.org 

Video

Speakers' Biographies

Erez Lieberman Aiden

Erez Lieberman Aiden is a fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and Visiting Faculty at Google. His research spans many disciplines and has won numerous awards, including recognition for one of the top 20 “Biotech Breakthroughs that will Change Medicine”, by Popular Mechanics; the Lemelson-MIT prize for the best student inventor at MIT; the American Physical Society’s Award for the Best Doctoral Dissertation in Biological Physics; and membership in Technology Review’s 2009 TR35, recognizing the top 35 innovators under 35. His last three papers – two with JB Michel – have all appeared on the cover of Nature and Science.

Jean-Baptiste Michel

Jean-Baptiste holds joint academic appointments at Harvard (FQEB Fellow) and Google (Visiting Faculty). His research focusses on using large volumes of data as tools that help better understand the world around us - from the way diseases progress in patients over years, to the way cultures change in human societies over centuries. With his colleague Erez Lieberman Aiden, Jean-Baptiste is a Founding Director of Harvard's Cultural Observatory, where their research team pioneers the use of quantitative methods for the study of human culture, language and history. His research was featured on the covers of Science and Nature, on the front pages of the New York Times and the Boston Globe, in The Economist, Wired and many other venues. The online tool he helped create - ngrams.googlelabs.com - was used millions of times to browse cultural trends. Jean-Baptiste is an Engineer from Ecole Polytechnique (Paris), and holds an MS in Applied Mathematics and a PhD in Systems Biology from Harvard. 

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