We just released a new feature for the Topic Mapper tool that supports looking at how a word is used. This kind of investigation into use of a word in context can be very helpful to start to gain more insights than you can from a simple check of word frequencies. Here are a few examples to illustrate why this can be useful. Hopefully you find it as revealing as we have already!
The deadline for Standing Rock campsite residents to depart their campsites along the Missouri River occurred last Wednesday. The evacuation deadline passed at 2 pm MST, coincidently marking a two year effort to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a conduit spanning 1,172 miles with the purpose of transporting crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. Representatives from approximately 300 of the 566 recognized Native American tribes in the United States actively participated at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota since April of 2016.
Some years ago, journalist and activist, the late Dori Maynard posed a question to the Media Cloud team: Does sports media use different language to talk about black and white athletes? The question, Dori told us, came from basketball player Isaiah Thomas, who had observed that journalists often described black athletes as physically talented but talked about the intelligence of white athletes. While both descriptions are laudatory, they focus on different aspects of a player’s talents, and enforce long-standing racial stereotypes about intellect and physicality. Could Media Cloud, Dori wondered, put some numbers to these anecdotes?
We have recently started looking into more topics around public health, which share these intertwined processes of creating and consuming knowledge and policy. Like traditional broadcast media, public health officials have traditionally been interested in distributing information from experts out to the masses. In the case of public health, the experts are scientists and doctors. But just as the internet has disrupted the flow of political information from political elites down to the crowds, it has also disrupted the flow of health information from scientists and doctors to the general public. Recently we’ve been looking at the topic of teen pregnancy because it provides a fascinating case study of a public health topic that is the center of a rich diversity of discussion in online media.