Historical Trends Research Hits National Media

Data mining research from the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University revealing the constant evolution of language was recently featured in the MIT Technology Review article, Linguistic Mapping Reveals  How Word Meanings Sometimes Change. Working with faculty advisor Steven Skiena, graduate students Vivek Kulkarni, Rami al-Rfou, and Bryan Perozzi used deep learning techniques to track changes in meaning over massive text corpra, including Google Books, Amazon, and Twitter.

The figure below shows how the word “gay” has shifted its meaning from “happy” to”homosexual” over the past hundred years.


In November, Dr. Skiena was also featured in a special issue of Smithsonian magazine on the 100 most historically significant Americans of all time.  The historical significance rankings of Skiena’s book Who’s Bigger? Where Historical Figures Really Rank, written with Charles Ward, a Google engineer, powered this special issue. Meet the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time described Skiena and Ward’s research as a “novel answer” to how we measure historical significance. Smithsonian editor T.A. Frail describes the research as involving high-level math and rigorous quantitative analysis.

Steven Skiena is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University. His research interests include the design of graph, string, and geometric algorithms, and their applications (particularly to biology). He is the author of five books, including The Algorithm Design Manual and Calculated Bets: Computers, Gambling, and Mathematical Modeling to Win. He is co-founder and Chief Scientist at General Sentiment, a media measurement company based on his Lydia text/sentiment analysis system. Skiena received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Illinois in 1988, and is the author of over 150 technical papers.