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Rap Genius, the website most famous for its detailed hip-hop annotations, launched an experimental new website yesterday that analyzes an entirely different form of media – the New York Times Weddings Section. Rap Genius’ engineering team created Wedding Crunchers, a searchable database of over 60,000 Times wedding announcements from 1981 to 2013.
The site uses n-gram computational language and was heaving influenced by the Google Books n-gram viewer. Like Google’s viewer, Wedding Crunchers searches for a desired word or phrase and displays a graph that visualizes how its usage has risen and fallen over the past 30+ years. The Times’s wedding section is rigidly structured (a standardized form must be filled out to announce a wedding in the Times), which means much of the same information will be in every announcement.
This makes it is possible to easily measure the frequency of common phrases, such as location, alma mater, employer, family, and more. For example, comparing the phrases “New York,” “Boston,” “Los Angeles,” and “Chicago,” reveals that far more announcements include New York. And comparing “democrat + democratic” vs. “republican” reveals that the Times mentions more left-leaning weddings than right-leaning ones.
In addition to offering the basic text search, Wedding Crunchers allows users to view a number of predefined results curated by the Rap Genius team. Some of these explore how the bride will use her husband’s name, the frequency of Ivy League alumni, and even the rise of the internet in the Time’s wedding announcements.
Wedding Crunchers offers an incredible amount of insight into the courtship and marriage of America’s elite. Or, as RapGenius puts it, “The Times’s wedding section is a perfect natural experiment designed to answer the question, What do the world’s most self-important people think is important?”
Check it out at WeddingCrunchers.com.
Jon Salm is an associate client analyst at Millward Brown Digital in New York City and a freelance data journalist in the Visual.ly marketplace. He has a bachelor’s degree in English from Washington and Lee University. You can find him online at about.me/salm.jon and follow him on twitter @S4LM3R.