AJP’s take on Josh Katz’s “Speaking American” – An exploration of culture with maps and digital humanities.

Journalist Josh Katz has done some incredible work in the digital humanities (i.e., using computers to analyze information and then making that information visual). See his map about the new phenomenon of men not working in the United States. And this map about the popularity of various contemporary television shows.

pp127His book Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk – A Visual Guide is very interesting. Don’t be deceived by the title “Speaking American” – this book is not at all saying there is any “one” or “correct” form of speaking. This book has over one hundred maps that illustrate how complex and different language is across the United States based on various surveys/quizzes. What words exist and don’t, as well as how they are pronounced differ in ways that match geography.

Have you heard of a “tag sale”??

If you want to borrow the book, let me know! We can mail it around to each other! 

This is not the kind of book I would recommend buying, necessarily, because there isn’t much to actually read, and it takes about 30 minutes to go through all 200 pages. It makes for a good “coffee table” book. Don’t get me wrong – there is plenty to think about. But once you look at it, the book has probably served its purpose. Unlike the articles linked above, the information in this book is not all that scientific. If you do buy a copy, buy a physical copy of this one! The kind of maps it has don’t work well on the Kindle.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 



Categories: Thoughts and Perspectives

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6 replies

  1. Useful. I’ve seen similar heat maps and this is useful. Aside, I’ve never seen Modern Family, so perhaps I need to watch. After I complete The Crown, of course.

    Note a more academic, reference resource, see the Dictionary of American Regional English [sic].

    http://www.daredictionary.com/
    Tag sale = http://www.daredictionary.com/view/dare/ID_00057889

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Bring the book when you can and let me look at it. Your post makes me think it’s interesting. Good post, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Forgive my long comments. This post really brought up a lot of associated thoughts, because of the implications of the information in it. I broke my thoughts up into 2 posts.

    (1)
    Thank you for sharing those links to his maps. They are extremely helpful. For too long we have ignored the poor in our elections. But, as we have seen in recent events, there is absolutely no indication that things will change on that front. Helping the poor to achieve real income equality would benefit all of those socioeconomic groups that scale above poverty. (Number one reason is that most businesses scale wages, along with thousands of other reasons). However, as we have seen, corporate welfare tends to pool at the upper levels. More than 10 years ago CEOs tended to make 20x the amount of the lowest paid worker. I heard recently that the gap is more like a 2000x today..

    “Trickle down” has never worked, so why do they keep trying to “make it work” without changing anything? Simple answer, they never intended for it to work because business in general actually thinks it is better to keep their workers “hungry.” It reduces competition for higher wages and increases competition for jobs.

    No wonder they keep saying that the economy is getting better when for most Americans it is not. Josh Katz is telling us that we need to look at some other digital index to determine the health of our economy. We can only win this battle with the economic elite by citing his work in comments across the web and teaching it in our courses. Numbers do not lie but they can mislead, especially when some can be ignored.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. (2)
    Now Katz’s work with language has other applications, although he probably did not think of this scenario.

    I heard Trump say something about “infrastructure” a few weeks ago that truly awakened me to how he interprets that word (I can’t remember his wording at all, too bad). Later, he mentioned highways, bridges, transportation, but his original meaning of it is probably what he thinks of it first. To Trump it is businesses. To most of us, when we hear the word “infrastructure,” we get images of physical products, like cars, trucks, concrete or asphalt roads, electric grids. I suspect Trump does not image those, but only has in mind the concept of more businesses. He does not build resorts himself. He subcontracts out those activities. Yes, he loves to show up to those places, when they open, to revel in their luxury, but he is more impressed with the sheer number of businesses associated with his name than with the physical presence of them. It is highly likely that what he says about building our infrastructure will turn out very different from what we imagine needs to be done.

    This interpretation of his behavior is in line with what seems to be the first principle about Trump that makes him predictable. The single-most important person is himself. That spreads to his businesses. So he assumes that if something is good for him and his business, it is also for everyone else and for those businesses that he determines should “win.” What is not good for him or his businesses is not good for anyone else.

    We need to know more about him before we can say we understand his use of certain terms. For instance, his remarks about restructuring the intelligence community may mean something totally different from what we assume he means as discussed in today’s PBS News Hour (4 Jan 2017). As a result, our news pundits could end up misleading us about his intent because they understand the use of those words only politicians in the past used them.

    Following first principle reasoning, Trump doesn’t read or pay attention to the news very much unless it is specifically aimed at him, and even then, he “subcontracts out” the work of reading. His curiosity about affairs of state is also low (note how he doesn’t consider daily briefings very important). So his political literacy is extremely impoverished.

    An analogy is an out-of-work, very intelligent, but not so curious coal miner, who never graduated from grade school, has never watched TV or never had access to the internet, let alone a smartphone, was magically given several billions of dollars and used them to be elected president (no poor person has ever been elected, for obvious reasons). He managed to keep many jobs in the coal industry because that was all he thought about, and curried favor with his bosses. But, as president, he might speak for the poor, but has no reason to remember them, since he is now guaranteed several $million for life. (Behavioral economics research has shown how money causes us to become greedy and forget our past economic status). His concept of big business is totally opposite that of members of Congress. This person would force all those trying to interpret his intent to learn about his background down to the minutest detail about his childhood.

    Oh, dear. This takes a lot more work than what politicians are used to doing. There are a lot of people in government who just don’t care to do much work, because they earn enough to be able to do less work. (Behavioral economics research has shown that the more money you earn, the less work you do).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. By the way, Katz’s map about TV shows (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/26/upshot/duck-dynasty-vs-modern-family-television-maps.html) holds some very interesting distributions. Take a look at the NW corner of Nevada. It is NOT an urban area at all and is one of the most rural areas you can find in the U.S. However, it often ranks highest in viewers of TV programs that the article says are extremely urban/coastal in popularity polls. Does this area hold a lot of ex-Californians who left that state in search of easier tax laws?

    Liked by 1 person

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