January 29, 2012
Browsing On Sunday: Words, Social Media and the Courts, and SCT Opinions
Business Insider highlights the Google Ngram Viewer which searches the Google book database for frequency of words. The viewer can take multiple words and graph their usage between 1800 and 2000. It’s a good way to measure how terms for the similar things change over time. The word “dirigible” is the overwhelming favorite term between 1880 and 1950. “Blimp” was popular during World War II. That’s not much of a surprise given how many lighter-than-air aircraft were used for reconnaissance then. That term is now the popular preference over “dirigible” and “zeppelin.” The latter never made much of an impact compared to the other two. Business Insider includes a series of word check examples as part of the article.
In a somewhat related note, there is a story on Medicalxpress.com that highlights a study of the English Language relating to the frequency of terms that are positive and negative. The study drew on four sources: twenty years of the New York Times, Google Books, Twitter and a half-century of music lyrics. The expectation was that there would be more usage of negative terms given the sources, but English was found to be more expressive of positive terms. Is that a measure of language or the people who use it? Positive is a positive, in any event. It would be interesting to do a similar study using transcripts from political debates. I wonder what that would show about politics.
The New York Times is taking a look at the e-reader and how it’s changing the publishing industry with a focus on Barnes & Noble. The Nook may represent the company’s strategy to transition to electronic distribution, if and when that time ever comes. The industry is very much in favor of keeping Barnes & Noble as a seller of physical goods. The alternative is a distribution network dominated by Amazon, a company not known to suck up to the publishers. The article is called The Bookstore’s Last Stand.
The Federal Judicial Center published a study late last year on the use of social media by jurors. It found that 30 judges out of 508 who responded to the survey study encountered the use of social media by jurors. Some of the activity was benign, such as updating status on Facebook, and some of it included attempting to research the case or trying to contact parties involved in the case. Benign or not, it’s all forbidden. A big concern is detecting it. The report did note that fellow jurors typically turned in violators to the court. One deterrent is the use of jury instructions that lay out the prohibition of the use of social media. The report has several examples of instructions submitted by a number of judges. Hat tip to Gary Price at INFOdocket.
Finally, the Washington Post examines recent high-profile decisions from the Supreme Court and notes that the decisions are too narrowly drawn to draw meaning for those beyond the defendant. Some legal scholars were a bit disappointed in the GPS tracking case of United States v. Jones because it wasn’t a game changer in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence. That case involved the use of surveillance technology which has the potential to change drastically over time. These kinds of decisions give the Court some flexibility in addressing those changes when they become issues in a case. Perhaps that is something to not complain about. [MG]
January 29, 2012 | Permalink