Du Bois gathered his data by creating profiles on 21 different online dating services, across every zip code in America.
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Every ten years, the US government takes a national census to find out who lives where, what they do for work, the languages they speak and more.
It’s good, important stuff, but it doesn’t necessarily tell Americans who they are — the dreams and goals of ordinary people, how we describe ourselves.
So in 2010, when the most recent census came out, artist R.
Luke Du Bois (TED Talk: Insightful human portraits made from data) decided to make his own survey of the country.
(People’s names weren’t included, either.) Du Bois then replaced the name of every city in the United States with these words, and his project, called “A More Perfect Union,” was born.
Du Bois talks us through the renamed country and shows why the keywords he uncovered constitute no less than the map of a population’s soul.
Du Bois: One of Seattle’s biggest words is obvious — “sound,” as in Puget Sound.
But around the city you also get words like “pretty,” “heartbreak,” “gig” and “cigarette.” That’s what dating someone from Seattle is like — they play in a band, they smoke, and you end up heartbroken.
The city of Redmond, Washington, where Microsoft is based, has a less lyrical word: “email.” Du Bois: This project was an interesting way to create a psychogeography for different parts of the US.