The State of the Union address in a single figure
The Washington Post - 01/21/2015
In the lead-up to last night’s State of the Union address, a number of computational analyses of past SOTU speeches appeared, examining word frequency over time or constructing new pseudo-speeches out of past ones. Even something as simple as a word count or word cloud can communicate important insights into the key ideas in a text, but an essential characteristic of a political speech that these approaches neglect is how these ideas develop as the speech wends its way through them: drawing the audience in, building its points, and finishing with a rousing conclusion. Obama’s speech last night was a particularly interesting example of this, where its structure in time was much more than the sum of its parts, moving through various notions and subsets of Americans towards a more abstract and unified idea of America.