Google have released a fascinating tool to analyse the data in some 5 million books scanned as part of their ‘Google Books’ project.
There have been some 129 million books published since the invention of printing, so-far Google have scanned 15 million of these and the researchers have selected 5 million books that have a sufficient level of quality to be useful. The information in these books has been digitised and the contents made accessible as data through the Google Ngram Viewer (see: http://books.google.com/ngrams/). The tool effectively maps the rise of social phenomena by plotting the number of times a work or phrase is used in books published in any particular year. To compensate for the growth in the number of books published year-on-year, the data is normalised. For more on this see: http://www.ted.com/talks/what_we_learned_from_5_million_books.html
Using the Ngram Viewer, the rise of ‘Stakeholders’ from a pure legal/gambling term (the neutral party who holds the ‘stakes’ during a game of chance or similar) to its current status is amazing. Pre 1970 there is a continual low-level reference primarily in legal books dealing with disputes over various ‘stakes’. Through the 1980s the focus shifted to corporate stakeholders (ie, shareholders and others). From the 1990s on the term has had an increasingly wider use.
It is fascinating to see this data supporting the analysis of the history of stakeholders contained in my first book Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (soon to be in its 2nd Edition – see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Book_Sales.html#Book_Bourne)
I have a feeling the Google Ngram Viewer will become an increasingly useful research tool, particularly as the raw data can be downloaded for independent analysis.