Jennifer Lopez WWF - Hogan and The Rock Britney Spears
Do you know what you're searching for?

Britney Spears. Dragon Ball Z. Jennifer Lopez. WWF. Harry Potter.

Sound familiar? They should -- each of them has been among the top online searches for over a year. Collectively, what is being searched for online can be an accurate measure of what people are interested in and is in essence what our culture is at any given moment.

In 1988, E.D. Hirsch stirred the national debate about Cultural Literacy -- the theory that there are certain things in a society's cultural history (specific books, movies, art, historical occurences) that form a canon that the average person must know in order to understand and be understood by others.

Whether or not one agrees with Hirsch's contention, it is becoming increasingly true that in today's information age, what is on the collective mind of people is constantly evolving and changing. It is my belief that analyzing online search engines provides us with the opportunity to glimpse snapshots into our culture.

My focus is not on the general most-searched for terms, however. Rather, using the Yahoo! Buzz Index, I am more interested in the "movers," or what terms have increased the most from one day to the next. I find it fascinating to see how quickly things move from traditional media to the web and what it takes to set the activity in motion. The two days I chose to analyze are the top 10 searches just before September 11 and a week after it.

 

ONE DAY BEFORE | ONE WEEK AFTER | COMPARISON

This site is © Malik Grady 2002.