Visualizing Memes

Posted by David

This entry is a plug for Google Trends. Some fascinating trends in the collective consciousness can be found there.

My mother and I were having a discussion. The gist of it was whether or not ‘the media’ was controlled in our country. We weren’t exactly on the same page, but not that far off.

In the past, I would have said, “Of course, the media is controlled by the powers that be. ‘They’ control the media.”

Nowadays, I’m more likely to argue that we are they. It’s the collective perspectives of various groups within the organism of Mankind that drives the information delivered by the various media outlets. The groups of people that are dominant in a particular culture provide the memes that are overarching within the thinking of the individuals as well media. This even goes for dictatorial states, where an individual or an oligarchy runs the state.

So, for example, in the United States, we supposedly live in a bipolar state. There are two main poles: conservatives and liberals. The memes that exist within these two groups, generally-speaking, would drive what the media provides. This is what I have been thinking. However, the graph below as well as many others that I’ve seen in Google Trends are making me rethink this perspective.

The Economy Meme - Search Volume and News Reference Index 2004-2009

There are a number of fascinating things about this graph. But first, I’ll stay on topic. Notice that the search volume index (how often people have searched on the term “economy”) differs widely from the news reference volume. If my theory were true that the general meme within in society drives the media, then these two graphs should mirror each other better than they do.

Let’s look a bit closer at what Google Labs is doing. The top graph shows how often people are searching for a particular term of phrase. This is what I’m calling a general societal meme. The lower graph provides an index describing the news reference volume.  I’m considering this graph to be the Media’s meme. They are definitely different. At minimal, the news reference volume doesn’tfollow the pattern of the search volume index. 

Interestingly, the relationship of the two graphs are not always different on all topics. If you search the term hurricane, they’ll mirror each other along the hurricane season quite closely as one would expect. If you search a neutral term, such as dancing, they will mirror each other slightly, based on an interesting yearly trend.

So, why is “economy” as a search volume index and news reference volume so incongruous? Could it be because the ‘powers that be’ try to control the media? I can’t say. But I now won’t hold so fast to my previous perspective.

The other thing that is interesting to note about the graph above is how people’s interest in the economy changes seasonally. Around July, when summer is in full gear, people are much more carefree doesn’t it seem? And around the time when we focus on Christ and people are freely giving, people could care less about the dollar. Isn’t that the way it should be?

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Filed under Consciousness, media

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