Word Association Clouds

By: Jeff Clark    Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2008

The American president recently presented the State of the Union Address for 2008. I noticed this Tag Cloud representation of the text. I'm sure there are several others already on the web as this is a standard analysis these days for any text of interest. It does a pretty good job of summarizing the content by listing the top keywords with a font scaled to their frequency.

In my recent tool Digg Trends I introduced something I call a Word Association Cloud. Visually, a Word Association Cloud looks like a standard Tag Cloud except the topmost word is made distinct in some manner. I've been using a faint block of color behind it. Rather than using font size to represent a simple word frequency the size here illustrates how good the correlation is with the primary word.

Word Association Cloud (static image)

In this example the primary word is 'Afghanistan' and the cloud clearly shows that the major words associated with it are 'iraq', 'america', 'freedom', 'pakistan' etc. The references within the text are also shown. I'm basically counting how often the various words occur near 'Afghanistan' but I'm also weighting this count based on how far apart the words are. You can click the primary word to enter edit mode and change it to whatever you wish. Or you can simply click on one of the associated words to make it the new primary word. This lets you navigate around easily to explore different words. If you change the primary word to a blank then a standard tag cloud is presented.

It's a simple idea but seems to give a useful perspective. I'm guessing somebody somewhere has done this before but I'm not aware of any examples. Please let me know if you find some. Give the Word Association Cloud for the State of the Union Address a try !

The interactive application:

To view this content, you need to install Java from java.com


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