Google Zeitgeist: What Our Data Tells Us About Us

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What is Google Zeitgeist? And why does it matter?

Over the past decade or so, Google has become a huge part of our lives. Whenever we run into any problems, whether technical, educational, personal, etc, many of us immediately turn to Google for answers. Google Zeitgeist lists are produced weekly, monthly, and yearly, and give us summaries of our most-searched queries; it is also an example of how data readily available on the web can be gathered and analyzed. While it is fun to look through these statistics, it is also interesting to see what they say about us.

Although many other forms of media are becoming more and more important for information-sharing (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, etc — who also released trending “talked about” lists), search is still a very good indicator of our interests, whether those interests are Whitney Houston, Gangnam Style, or Diablo 3.

By taking a look at the top 10 list, one might wonder why the world has such shallow interests. Are celebrities, games, and pop songs all we really care about?

I speculate that while these search results don’t exactly give us faith in humanity, there is much more to be examined and explained than just the trends we can see. Perhaps there are less technical terms searched for because there are less people involved with those fields. And even though Ph.D professions may search for technical papers to expand their knowledge and research, they probably searched for Whitney Houston as well. In a way, these searches represent a common denominator, and instead of seeing them as a representation of our superficial interests, we can look at them as a list of light-hearted topics that bring the world together.

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Zeitgeist#Statistical_tools

http://www.google.com/zeitgeist/2012/#the-world

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2413146,00.asp

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2 Responses to Google Zeitgeist: What Our Data Tells Us About Us

  1. aserafim says:

    I’m really surprised that the presidential election didn’t make the top 10 this year. People search for the latest, hottest, popular things on the web. The the top 10 from 2011 was:
    1. Rebecca Black
    2. Google Plus
    3. Ryan Dunn
    4. Casey Anthony
    5. Battlefield 3
    6. iPhone 5
    7. Adele
    8. 東京 電力
    9. Steve Jobs
    10. iPad 2
    By looking at the trend, people mostly search for celebrities and deaths. From this year, the majority of searches are similar from the past, which are celebrities and deaths. It looks like people flock to Google when a newly hot musician releases a catchy song, or when somebody dies.

  2. blevz says:

    Interesting corollary:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/can-google-predict-the-impact-of-racism-on-a-presidential-election/258322/
    Google search data can be used to predict racial discrimination in elections

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