State of the Union (2006)

State of the Union (SOTU) provides access to the corpus of all the State of the Union addresses from 1790 to 2006. SOTU allows you to explore how specific words gain and lose prominence over time, and to link to information on the historical context for their use. SOTU focuses on the relationship between individual addresses as compared to the entire collection of addresses, highlighting what is different about the selected document. You are invited to try and understand from this information the connection between politics and language

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State of the Union provides searchable access to the corpus of all the State of the Union addresses from 1790 to 2007. Using visualization software, the site allows a user to explore how specific words gain and lose prominence over time, and to link to information on the historical context for their use. State of the Union focuses on the relationship between individual addresses as compared to the entire collection of addresses, highlighting what is different about the selected document. From this information, users are invited to try and understand the connection between politics and language-between the state we are in, and the language which names it and calls it into being.

An accompanying essay, The {Sorry} State We Are In (http://stateoftheunion.onetwothree.net/essay.html), is a meditation on the language of politics. Lamenting the triumph of iconicity over rhetoricity, I describe the gradual changes in political speech from argument to brand.

Contemporary political ideas, which take the form of memes circulating in the soup of our media saturated world, are formally equivalent to the fragments of iconic identity circulating as agents of corporate entities, the brands. Politics is branding, the media practice of producing identity as awareness and desire, through the deployment of declarative language and image.

The project asks us to consider if evidence for this assertion exists in the language of the State of the Union address which stands as a controlled sample of political speech over the course of U.S. history.

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