Gentlemen, France limits enemy parties. Tonight truly barrels us deficits.
November 20, 2010 2:14 PM   Subscribe

HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/20 is an information art piece. Artist/composer R. Luke DuBois [previously] manipulated the text of individual State of the Union addresses from each presidency, sorting the words according to frequency of use, to generate a Snellen eye chart for each President.

Frequent words appear in larger text at the top, less frequent words in decreasing size towards the bottom.

The 66-member word lists . . . are designed to draw out the most unique and contemporary vocabulary used by the president in his speeches. . . words that are not only important in a given presidency, but also au courant in terms of lexicon and contemporary context.

The aim of the piece is to make a statement about the perennial political metaphor of vision. . . The choice of words employed by a given presidential administration to articulate its message is in many ways its signature.

Hint: There's a menu along the bottom, but you can just click in the middle of each chart to move on to the next.
posted by Herodios (24 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Very cool. A little too form over function, but neat nonetheless.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:27 PM on November 20, 2010

Nixon sure said 'Truly' a lot. In hindsight, that probably meant he was lying.
posted by box at 2:30 PM on November 20, 2010

I'm wondering how McKinley managed to say "Puerto" significantly more than "Rico".

Was he interrupted a lot?
posted by rog at 2:41 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, you can say "Puerto Rico," but also "Puerto Rican," "Puerto Ricans," "Puerto Ricola," and very occasionally "Puerto Ricolalia," which is a disorder which causes automatic repetition of songs from West Side Story.
posted by Rinku at 2:46 PM on November 20, 2010 [14 favorites]

Haha. Good point, well made.
posted by rog at 3:01 PM on November 20, 2010

Crude but effective, albeit less so for partisans.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:24 PM on November 20, 2010

If these were emails they wouldn't make it to my inbox.
posted by clarknova at 4:03 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is great! Some lessons gleaned from these for future presidents:

- If the best theme you can come up with is "deem," don't act surprised when history largely forgets you.
- If "thereby" is in your top three lines, you might be an old windbag.
posted by Xezlec at 4:14 PM on November 20, 2010

Hint: A website which needs a hint as to the navigation can be safely assumed, without visiting it, to be poorly designed.

Followup: Assumption Confirmed.
posted by Aquaman at 4:21 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is actually a pared-down psychohistorical group-fantasy analysis. It uses one of the technique's three fitlers: repeated nouns and verbs.

The other two filters are emotionally-charged terms and Freudian keywords.

Here's a fun web-based tool I and some friends made that does this for you: at least with two of the three criteria. Funnily enough, we also pre-loaded the text field with a (then current) G. W. Bush state of the union speech.
posted by clarknova at 4:44 PM on November 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yoda / A Long Time Ago

posted by oulipian at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2010

posted by clavdivs at 5:19 PM on November 20, 2010

Very similar to a fantastic piece I saw performed by musician Adam Fong a few years ago called "2005 Address of State the Union" in which the words of the address (as published) are ordered alphabetically, and read aloud. Hearing George Bush's vocabulary (eg, the word "security" repeated 23 times in a row) this way had a simultaneously numbing and infuriating effect. It was a chilling experience - enhanced even more by its being performed in Oakland's Chapel of the Chimes mausoleum.
posted by memewit at 5:26 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like a line on Clinton's eye chart (I mean, regular chart):


What a frighteningly vague string of words.
posted by Askiba at 5:50 PM on November 20, 2010

The aim of the chart is to allow optomotrists to assess a patient's vision...

Optomotrists check your driving. Optometrists check your vision.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:57 PM on November 20, 2010


What a frighteningly vague string of words.

Actually, it's the tightest summation of the Clinton-era argument for net censorship I've ever seen.
posted by clarknova at 6:27 PM on November 20, 2010

Group fantasy-analysis scores again!
posted by clarknova at 6:29 PM on November 20, 2010

If I ever start an indy band, I'm totally gonna name it the

posted by randomkeystrike at 6:39 PM on November 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am enjoying this opportunity to do my political science/history major geekout thing and click randomly and guess which president it is on the basis of just the top two lines.

It surprises me not at all that the very easiest one so far was Andrew Jackson.
posted by SMPA at 7:18 PM on November 20, 2010

It took me a while to figure out that '21st' in Clinton's referred to the next century.

Nixon's 'Truly' is such a giveaway.
posted by unSane at 5:42 AM on November 21, 2010

artist have to use Flash
to present a series of static images?

posted by spitefulcrow at 12:50 PM on November 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

In retrospect, hindsight isn't even 20/20.
posted by SteelyDuran at 3:52 PM on November 21, 2010

See also, as a tag cloud, by year.
posted by and for no one at 7:27 PM on November 21, 2010

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