Party Lines and Talking Heads: Counting political words


More than 10 million words are spoken in our Parliament each year. And now you can see how many of them were about something of interest to you.

Party Lines takes all those words and makes them accessible in a nice graphical format keyed to political parties. So, for example, I can see that the ALP seems to use the word ‘Internet” more than the Liberals do. I can see that in spite of all the press coverage “misogynist” hardly made it into the official record at all, and most mentions were by the Liberals. Sydney gets mentioned a lot more than Melbourne does.

I can see that this would be a bit of treasure-trove for someone doing research. However at first I found my interest waning a bit because I rarely had a reference point that was easy to get to because the graphs are labelled by week number. For example, “Week 22 2008” saw a big jump in mentions of “Sydney”. I then realised that by clicking on the bar for that week I could  see all of the mentions in context with the search terms highlighted. That’s nicely done. It did also reveal a feature it would be nice to have added in though. You see, the word “Sydney” comes up a lot partly because politicians cite ‘The Sydney Morning Herald” – so a search that could exclude words would be useful: “Sydney” when not part of “Sydney Morning Herald”.

Party Lines comes with a companion interactive, Talking Heads, another way to navigate the data. Talking Heads graphically presents the most talkative and quietest members of Parliament. You can filter the results by year, party or chamber, and click the bubbles for more detailed information and a link to that politician’s Hansard profile on OpenAustralia. There’s some amusing information here: filter for most interjections and watch a couple of heads bounce to the front.

More information on what occurs in our Parliament can only be a good thing for democracy. Even better, though, is it becoming available in an accessible and entertaining format.

Party Lines and Talking Heads come from The Global Mail.

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