Tag clouds as a research object

On: January 9, 2007
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About Anne Helmond
Anne is a New Media PhD Candidate and Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam. She graduated on software-engine relations in the blogosphere and continues her research as an analyst-designer in the newly found Digital Methods Initiative of the University of Amsterdam. Anne is also a freelance photographer for various Dutch media including VPRO 3voor12.


TagcloudTag clouds are a nice way to visualize the content tags of a website. Flickr started this trend when they displayed a “All-time most popular tags” tag cloud on their front page. The size of the tags in the tag cloud is usually relative (more frequently used tags are displayed in a larger font). In this way you can quickly see what is hot and what is not on a webpage.

But when you add the dimension of time things get really interesting. You can actually map out shifts in tag usage. Chirag Meta created a Tagline Generator “that lets you generate chronological tag clouds from simple text data sources without manually tagging the data entries.” Two nice applications of this generator are:

  1. US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud
    You can see a shift from “welfare” to “terrorism”
  2. Microsoft’s evolution, in keywords
  3. The word “computer” is disappearing, interesting!

It might be nice if you could focus on one word, or a set of related words, so you could follow a certain trend. What else can we do with tagclouds (except making a t-shirt out of it of course)?

2 Responses to “Tag clouds as a research object”
  • January 9, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Good idea to make an image of our tagcloud at the end of this year. Nice to see what we discussed during our last year of college! :)

    We may even make another t-shirt with the image!

  • January 9, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I like to see it on a coffee-mug

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