#173: Listen to a podcast

22 Jun

Yeah, I’m slightly behind the times.  Most of the time I just figure if they include the transcript of the podcast, I might as well read it and save a few minutes.  (In my defense, I received an extremely meager portion of patience when it was originally distributed.)  I figured the same thing this time, too, but it wasn’t included.

The podcast was great.  The premise is that there is this mathematical formula that can be used to determine whether a piece is written by a particular writer, based on the frequency of small words like pronouns, prepositions, articles, and conjunctions (vs. more obvious things like word length, style characteristics, etc.). The reason is that authors have a tendency to consistently use the same little words in their writing without even thinking about it–for example, when they choose whether to use “which” or “that.”

About a year ago, the guy I was dating said he was going to write a story using my style because it is apparently distinctive.  I was excited to see what he would come up with and decide whether it reflected how I view my own writing style.  Unfortunately, he never got around to writing it (for some reason this just wasn’t high on his priority list).  But even if he would have (written it in the first place and) gotten the style right, it probably wouldn’t have been confused for my writing if analyzed by the technology described in the podcast.  He’s likely to have used certain function words differently and more or less often than I do.

I can guess many of the words that would come up in my charts–I use “that” at an alarmingly high frequency; the same goes for “and” and “but.”  Still, I’m sure there are some I’m not even aware of.  That’s what makes the technology so interesting: that we could use it to discover our unconscious tendencies as writers.  (As people?)

I love that our brains–I mean our collective brains, as there’s no way my own would figure this stuff out–can find a way to take math, a discipline that’s supposed to be logical and exact and straightforward, to analyze something that comes spontaneously.  That’s just so cool.  And.  But.

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Computers, Science


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