Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Zealand’s Zeitgeist

Google has long chronicled what people search for, calling the ranking of searches “zeitgeist.” One of my favourite German words, zeitgeist means “spirit of the times”. As the end of the year approaches, Google has (somewhat prematurely, I would’ve thought) posted its Zeitgeist 2011.

Their overall top ten list for 2011 globally was: 1. Rebecca Black (I had to Google her, and I still don’t know who she is), 2. Google Plus, 3. Ryan Dunn (Googled him, too, and didn’t really know who he was, either), 4. Casey Anthony (Googled her, but then realised I did know who she is), 5. Battlefield 3, 6. iPhone 5, 7. Adele, 8. 東京電力 (Tokyo Electric Power), 9. Steve Jobs and 10. iPad 2.

This list is usually dominated by American stuff or interests—people, places and things—but I think it’s notable that this year one of them was in Japanese, apparently from Japanese people looking for information about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The American overall Zeitgeist list is, not surprisingly, similar to the global list, but with some differences: 1. Rebecca Black, 2. Google Plus, 3. Hurricane Irene, 4. Pinterest (a site I’d never heard of), 5. Ryan Dunn, 6. iPhone 5, 7. Casey Anthony, 8. Adele, 9. Osama Bin Laden, 10. Steve Jobs.

The New Zealand list is quite different: 1. Rugby World Cup, 2. Japan Earthquake, 3. iPhone 5, 4. Pippa Middleton, 5. Adele, 6. Nek Minute (refers to a phrase in a New Zealand viral video), 7. Google Plus, 8. Amy Winehouse, 9. Steven Tyler and 10. Ken Ring (who claimed he could predict earthquakes based on the moon or something; he couldn’t, of course).

While only two of America’s list could be described as non-American, New Zealand’s is much more international. America’s two non-American searches refer to US interests—war and pop culture—while New Zealand’s refer to technology, pop culture and actual news. The Rugby World Cup arguably falls into several categories—New Zealand, international interest and news.

The number one image that Kiwis searched for was Sonny Bill Williams (I can understand that…), but he was followed by Justin Bieber. All but three of the searches (“New Zealand” at 4, “All Blacks” at 5 and “Christchurch Earthquake” at 10) were about pop culture. One could say that all of Americans’ image searches were about pop culture, except, maybe, “Planking” at one and “Royal Wedding” at 10, but to me those are more about pop culture.

People say these lists probably tell us something about the “spirit of the times”, but I think it’s not entirely clear what, exactly, they tell us. Still, I do find them kind of interesting.


d said...

You should be happy you don't know who Rebecca Black is. ;)

Also..just had to google Sonny Bill. Wow. He's so very pretty!!

Arthur Schenck said...

LOL, I'll keep that in mind and avoid Googling her. ;-) Yes, SBW is pretty.

Roger Owen Green said...

I still have no idea who Ryan Dunn is. I only know Rebecca Black because so many people were decrying her fame for doing the arguably worst song ever on the Internet, Friday, or Fridays. One blogger I visit mentions her almost every week, and not on Tuesdays.

migrate to new zealand said...

Need to Google Rebecca Black. LOL