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Playing with culturomics- part 1

December 17, 2010

Google’s new book data base, is a planner’s dream; the Google machine has digitally scanned over 15 million books- approx 12% of all books ever published, which means you can not only search them, you can turn the contents into something useful.

By searching the database you can looks for trends and patterns that highlight cultural shifts and changes. Some are calling this new science, “Culturomics”.

As with any new shiny object, you are bound to see Planners and their interns play around and experiment with all kinds of searches on this tool and then bring their fascinating insights to client presentations and new business pitches.

I’ve spent about 30 minutes with it this morning and it’s certainly something that you can waste a lot of time with and I am sure if you are skilled and highly insightful, it could be used to prove some points.

Here are the results of this morning’s experiments.

Manufacture vs Craft


Manufacture in steep decline from the 1920s onwards, craft rising during the Second World War and again at the tail end of the century.



The golden age of the suburbs were the early 70s and its been downhill ever since.

Car vs. Horse


It took until 1940 for the car to overtake the horse, but interesting patterns after that; it took until the 60s for the car to rise as a cultural phenom and it continued to rise rapidly towards the turn of the century, as did the horse!!!

Posted by Ed Cotton

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