Word cloud for On the Origin of Species, 2nd edition
Word Cloud for On the Origin of Species, 2nd edition

I hope visualizations entertain you as much as they do me.  I’ve recently generated two word clouds which denote the word frequency in the second and sixth editions of On the Origin of Species.  As always, they support what we already know (for example, the increased frequency of “Mr” in the sixth edition confirms that there were more men that Darwin could draw on to substantiate his work in 1872 than he had been able to in 1860).  That said, I’m not sure how to interpret the later text’s dwindling use of the word “varieties” relative to “variations,” or the virtual disappearance of the word “believe.”  I suppose visualizations really do make us question the text, rather than providing us with answers.

Word cloud for On the Origin of Species, 6th edition
Word Cloud for On the Origin of Species, 6th edition
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4 thoughts on “Looking at the Origin

  1. I actually don’t use visualization tools because they confuse the heck out of me. I don’t think I visualize things very well. Charts, graphs, tables — none of these make any sense to me, but if you tell me how things are arranged, so that I can hear it, then things makes sense.

    Ah, who knows. I’m probably making this up.

    Very interesting post!!! The differences between the two editions are quite startling.

  2. I love wordle! I use it as a tool for various texts that I write because I find it helps me make sense of my own writing better– I can see the major themes and arguments appear and sometimes see major ideas appear that I hadn’t realized were so central to the argument.

    I suppose that the differences in reliance on visualization tools between you, Daniel, and I have to do with learning styles?

    I would love a tool that could help me create mind maps — those little clouds with connecting lines — on my computer. Any ideas?

  3. I’d love a map tool too – although, as Daniel has said of word clouds, I’m not sure that I parse information from maps particularly well.

    Jen, I love how optimistic you are about your writing. Every time I plug my own work into wordle, I feel like it gives me a list of the things I should stop harping on about!

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