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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Text Visualization Tools

What would it be like if we had true open access to large quantities of government text? We would be able to do much more than retrieve a page of the Congressional Record and read it. Researchers would be able to analyze the text and create new, innovative ways of discovering, browsing, searching, and reading text-based information.

Clifford Lynch has written eloquently about this in the realm of scholarly literature (Clifford A. Lynch, “Open Computation: Beyond Human-Reader-Centric Views of Scholarly Literatures,” Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, Neil Jacobs Ed., Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2006, pp. 185-193.).

I was reminded of these issues this morning when looking at Visualization Strategies: Text & Documents on Tim Showers Web Design Blog (August 20th, 2008). Tim lists more than a dozen examples of techniques and tools. One of my favorites is the visualization of the 2008 Democratic primary debates offered by the New York Times. You can hear the debate, search for keywords and see where they appear, browse a transcript, and more.

Shouldn’t we have free, open, access to large bodies of all government texts (not just search-and-retrieve access to bits-and-pieces) so that we can easily create corpora that can be indexed, browsed, and analyzed?

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Tim Dennis!