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UIX Blog: Shared ideas and new trends in reporting, illustrated


In every story we publish in UIX, we highlight the ways in which a company or individual best represents sustainable growth and innovative thinking. There are many in West Michigan who embody those aims in countless ways but a lot of the same ideas remain in each source we report on, easily illustrated by word clouds.
In every story we publish in UIX, we highlight the ways in which a company or individual best represents sustainable growth and innovative thinking. West Michigan has countless examples, but a lot of the same ideas remain in each source we report on, easily illustrated by word clouds.

When Kevin Lignell covered Cascade Engineering in March 2014, he focused on the company's B Corp Certification and the prisoner reentry program that Jahaun McKinley and Keith Maki help make a success, not the company's consumer-end products. Likewise, when we covered OXX, Inc. and CampusStarter more recently, we focused on the processes that got the people running these start-ups to where they are. 

That's just the lens we use, and for good reason, as the stories we find wouldn't mean as much if they were just ads for paid product. But, now that UIX has been in publication for about two and a half years, it's interesting to see how that lens is shaped.

A handy graphical tool used to show the importance of words and ideas in any block of text is a word cloud. The diagram can be shaped or colored in any way, but the basic rules remain the same: Words that are used most often are pictured larger than those that aren't used as much. Using a free online word cloud service, taking in all the stories and notes from 2013 (Oct.-Dec.), 2014, 2015, and 2016 (Jan.-Feb.), we generated different collections for each year. After screening out some of the more common prepositions and phrases, each collection of data develops its own personality.

The Grande Vitesse silhouette represents 2013. Many of the stories from this formative year reflected themes of both literal organic growth and cooperative design.

The thought bubble incorporates stories from 2014; a full year of diverse UIX coverage. Compared to the previous year, articles in 2014 retained an emphasis on "work" and "people," whereas "food" and "design" in 2013 are replaced by "students" and "business" the following year.

In 2015, represented in the shape of Michigan, we see a lot of the same ideas as 2014, although new words are encroaching. "Coffee," for instance, shows up in the Upper Peninsula, while "business" isn't nearly as important.

We're only two months into 2016, but our word cloud, in the shape of a cloud this time (as seen at the top of this post), is already on target with the ideas we're hoping to showcase. 

Tools like this not only explain our coverage, but they help us see where it may be lacking. By comparing diagrams from different years, noting the growth or diminishing of different words, and their relative sizes, we can see a generalization of how stories are being presented.

Urban Innovation Exchange highlights the people and projects transforming West Michigan through sustainable efforts. To see more UIX stories, you can check out the entire series here. Have thoughts or ideas about UIX? Contact UIX Grand Rapids Editor Matthew Russell at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com.
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