Google has digitized millions of books from libraries across the world, including the UC Libraries. While our digitized books are great for traditional reading and research, the corpus also offers a unique opportunity for new kinds of inquiry. For instance: what can we learn about the evolution of culture by analyzing the written record over time on a massive scale? How can we quantify the change of languages over time?

In this great TEDx talk, two Harvard researchers (Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden) discuss the insights they’ve gleaned from the Google N-gram Viewer. From the creation of a metric for censorship to the orthography of frustration, the presentation introduces ideas that could spark great research in the digital humanities and elsewhere. It’s fun to watch, too.

You can also try out your own N-grams!