Why Big Data Doesn’t Live up to the Hype

In 1996, the artist Karen Reimer alphabetized the entire text of a romance novel and published the results as the book Legendary, Lexical, Loquacious Love. By listing every instance of each word in the original novel, she allowed the frequencies of words to tell a subversive story about the entire genre of the romance novel. The word “beautiful” appears 29 times, and “breasts” occupies one-third of a page. “Her” fills eight pages, while “his” fills only two and a half. The word “intelligent” appears precisely once.

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