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Reading Books and Social Media Infographics

January 30, 2012

I wrote two blog posts last week – one on repetitive reading for happychild online parenting magazine, and the other on social media infographics for Open Forum, an online discussion site run by Global Access Partners.

You’d think the two posts have nothing in common, apart from both being a little tongue-in-cheek. However, what got me thinking about the social media infographics piece was a link to a TED talk sent to me by a colleague – What we learned from 5 million books.

At an individual level, repetitive reading has been shown to increase learning ability in children, while collectively, thanks to Google ‘reading’ (digitising) over 15 million books, it is allowing us to use the data to develop greater insights into history and society, such as Google’s Ngram Viewer.

So how does this relate to my blog post on social media infographics?

Well, the great thing about social media is that we are effectively digitising social interaction in real time – something we have never had the opportunity to do before. While social media users are a subset of the general population, it is an ever-growing subset. In future years, I can see historians, anthropologists, sociologists and more tapping into this real-time data to draw conclusions and identify trends that we can’t see today – just as the researchers behind Ngram Viewer are doing with the 15 million+ books scanned by Google.

Still not seeing the link?

These social media infographics with which we are constantly being bombarded are largely meaningless. Just sets of statistics and observations for the here and now, designed to help someone make a buck. What I’m waiting to see is the research and analysis that will be done on social media in 10, 30, 50 years time on the people, the events, the interactions, the conversations, the tweets, and the images that shaped things.

On a completely different note, 15 years ago I came up with an idea for the perfect spelling/grammar checker. Looking at Google Books and Ngram Viewer, I think I might revisit that now … If you’ve got money to invest, and want to hear more, please let me know!

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