I made an exercise with Google custom search API. I wrote a simple java code and now by that I can ask any question and Google returns XML type results, including the snippets, links, and some other information regarding the first 100 results.
Then, using a parser one can get the required information, including the whole text related to corresponding URL. The whole process is completely the same as what we can do by normal Google search, but now in an automated way.
What I am interested to do with this capability is to later develop a personal sentiment analysis, and hopefully I will do it soon as it is a good exercise for Natural Language Processing . Still lazy or maybe a bit busy!!!!
However, by this generic capability that Google gives us, I think we can do lots of other things. For example, I think what is called Grounded Theory in social science, as a research method, can be done automatically.
For example, one of my interests is about urban models and city theories, but during the history of let say city science and urban design there have been lots of different theories and models, which makes it hard to get them all and even it is not easy to know where to start from.
In a simple way, we can say each theory is viewing the concept and the phenomenon of the city from a certain perspective with a certain glasses and as I think cities are complex phenomena, therefore in principle there can be infinite number of aspects or glasses for the cities. Therefore, it is not easy to say what a city is? (of course, here I am not talking about city theories although I have my certain position! :))
Therefor, it would be interesting to get a big picture of the whole landscape of city theories in one step!
Inspired by Grounded Theory we should go to the field and ask and see how others are seeing this phenomena. But instead, Google now can do this for us for free (still super cheap if you ask more than 100 questions a day!)
For example, I just searched this simple combinations, ” City as *” and based on this keyword set, Google will tell me how people say about “City as a..”. In fact, it finds the texts in which this sequence of words happen such as City as a Machine, City as an Ecological System and so on.
In the literature there are main categories, that of course should be found in this Google search too and as you see below is the wordle of this search. If you are already familiar with main city theories, by looking carefully at the tag cloud, you can find the main guys, but the interesting point is that in principle, this method is helpful when you don’t know anything about something and you are eager to know a lot in the fastest possible way. This is a good way for that aim. And further, you have all the links coming from Google custom search into your computer, and just in case you find an interesting concept, you go to the link for more detail.