Friday, January 4, 2013

Zeitgeist: Spirit of the Age or Time

Wally Skalij/Getty Images: Shuttle passing Crenshaw Ave, Inglewood CA
As I sit here reflecting on 2012 while setting goals for 2013, my thoughts seem to rest on the German word Zeitgeist  and how our culture and worlds are changing.

Looking at Google's 2012 Zeitgiest one can't help but notice we're moving away from Google searches of newspaper headlines, exposes, novels, and texts, towards a world of sound bites, technology and visual images. 

First, what is Zeitgiest?

According to Wikipedia:
"The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought which typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time."  defines it as:
"Zeit·geist (ts t g st , z t -). n. The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation"
"(Historical Terms) the spirit, attitude, or general outlook of a specific time or period, esp as it is reflected in literature, philosophy, etc. "
Below are four different Zeitgeist 2012 impressions:  Google's, The New York Times', YouTube's, and mine. With mine, however, I intentionally left out one component that I hope you'll help me with...but more about that later.  First, enjoy Google, The New York Times, and YouTube's Zeitgeist 2012:

Google's Zeitgeist 2012 represents an "aggregation" of over one trillion searches typed into Google Search over 2012. Filtering out spam and repeat queries Google came up with 'top searches' the world performed over 2012.  These 'top ten' lists, according to Google reflect the world's current Zeitgeist.

According to Google, "2012 was a year of big moments, from global games to historical elections and everything in between." Based on their analysis, Google's 'most searched' categories were:
  • Searches (Whitney Houston, Gangnam Style, Hurricane Sandy, iPad 3, Diablo 3, Kate Middleton, Olympics 2012, Amanda Todd, Michael Clarke Duncan, and BBB12)
  • Images (One Direction, Selena Gomez, iPhone 5, Megan Fox, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Harry Styles, Minecraft, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry )
  • Athletes (Jeremy Lin, Michael Phelps, Peyton Manning, McKayla Maroney, Junior Seau, Sarah Burke, Tom Daley, Lance Armstrong, Mario Balotelli, and Ryan Lochte)
  • Events (Hurricane Sandy, Kate Middleton, Olympics 2012, SOPA Debate, Costa Concordia crash, Presidential Debate, Stratosphere Jump, Penn State Scandal, Trayvon Martin shooting, Pussy Riots)
  • People (Whitney Houston, Kate Middleton, Amanda Todd, Michael Clarke Duncan, One Direction, Felix Baumgartner, Jeremy Lin, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Kony, and Donna Summer)
  • Feature Films (The Hunger Games, Skyfall, Prometheus, The Avengers, Magic Mike, John Carter, Ek Tha Tiger, Paranormal Activity 4, Taken 2, and Dark Shadows)
  • TV Shows (BBB12, Avenida Brasil, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Voice, American Idol, Game of Thrones, Homeland, Revenge, Cheias de Charme, and Carrossel)
  • Performing Artists (Whitney Houston, Michael Clarke Duncan, One Direction, Donna Summer, Lana Del Rey, Carolina Dieckmann, Dirk Bach, Carly Rae Jespen, Michel Telo, and LMFAO)
  • Consumer Electronics (iPad 3, Samsung Galaxy S3, iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Galaxy Note 2, Play Station, iPad 4, Microsoft Surface, Kindle Fire, and Nokia Lumia 920)
  • Videos (Gangnam Style, Somebody That I Used to Know by Walk of the Earth, KONY 2012, Call Me Maybe featuring Justin Bieber, Obama vs. Romney Epic Rap Battles of History, A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square, Why You Asking All Them Questions? Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling, Facebook Parenting: For the Troubled Teen, and Felix Baumgartner's Supersonic Free Fall)
NYTimes 2012: The Year in Graphics

Compelling evidence of how graphics are invading our homes, schools, papers and lives,  The New York Times has collected infograhic representations of 2012 events. Here are a few of my favorites. Check the link above for their complete compilation.

[NOTE: As these are large graphic representations, I couldn't reproduce them here but they are WELL WORTH a LOOK.]

YouTube's 2012 Zeitgeist:

In short, over the past few years there have been some significant cultural changes that have resulted to a large extent from the explosion of the Internet and social networking.

As a result, comic books and graphic novels are becoming core elements of our culture (with The New York Times now including graphic novels in their Book Reviews). According to sales figures (calculated by Comichron), year to date 2012 comic book and graphic novel sales (as of September 2012) stood at 16.16% over 2011 Sales. Graphic novels host vibrant sections in book stores, libraries and classrooms, and their content extends way beyond superheroes, high school teens and detectives.

Visual literacy is also an integral aspect of our culture and is a central theme in the new Common Core Curricula mandated for schools across the country. Information is now being relayed through visual images, and we must help our kids learn to create, "read" and comprehend visual images as well as, and in conjunction with, traditional text.  We must understand how color, font and images relay information, how to compose visual messages, and how to read charts and infographics.  [Over the next few months, I hope to blog more about visual literacy and infographics and hope you join and contribute to the dialogue.]

Whether we like it or not, visual and verbal communication in short bursts over text messages, twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, are now key elements of communication, and we need to understand how best to use, compose and interpret them.

That said, here is my ZEITGEIST 2012 (minus one component I need your help with- can you guess which one it will be? Check for details below):

OLYMPICS 2012 (Compliments of Sports Illustrated):  

Photo: Peter Read Miller/SI
Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated

PBS "Storm of Debt and Downgrades"

PBS: "China Looks to the Future"
PBS: "Beached Concordia"

AP/Ng Han Guan: North Korea's Kim Jong Un

AP Photo/Altaf Qadri: Mynamar's Aung San Suu Kyi Athens riots

AP/Manish Swarup: Tibetan protester in New Delhi
NASA/Reuters/Robert Markowitz: Last Shuttle flight

Pete Souza/White House Photo via Getty Images: President Obama on Rosa Parks bus at Henry Ford Museum 4/18/12

Reuters/Esam Al-Fetori: Benghazi- US Consulate burns

The Atlantic: damaged Aleppo's Salaheddin neighborhood, Syria

Reuters/Yves Herman: Milk Protest, Brussels

Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany: Anti-Mursi Protesters in Tahrir Square, Cairo 11/27/12

NYDaily News: Clint Eastwood, Republican Convention
PBS: "The Challenger"

Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America: "Four More Years"
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images: Loser's Concession Speech
Reuters/Phillip Andrews: The Winner

Reuters/Eric Thayer: Hurricane Sandy:Seaside Heights, New Jersey
Iwan Baan/Getty Images:Sandy hits NYC

AP/John Minchillo: Sandy hits  Ground Zero


IMAGES OF SPACE 2012:  from the International Space Station, Curiosity rove, Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer - they are mind-boggling, breath-taking inspiring, and worth your time and viewing:


This is where I need your help. I am leaving this open intentionally.  Please leave YOUR IDEAS of 2012's epic ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS AND PERSONALITIES (in the comments)- from music, television, shows, movies, plays and art - those that YOU think best represents 2012.  I will compile and post the most mentioned songs, artists, events, films, TV shows, plays, etc. in the space below.  

Check back next week to see how we've addressed this component of 2012 Zeitgeist!

Your ENTERTAINMENT choices: As of January 28th, Gangnam Style has won in the comments with honorable mention for Justin Bieber and "Me So You So Me"  Here are some links.

First, Gangnam Style (note that the English translation is just too racy for me and so be forewarned):

And for the older 'classic' fans "Me So You So Me":

And if you want more resources, here are additional links to THE BEST images of 2012:

As always, thank you for your visits, and please leave your impressions of Zeitgeist ENTERTAINMENT 2012 in the comments.

[Note: In compiling this post I have taken images from various sources and have tried my best to acknowledge original sources.  If you have any further citation information for the images above, please leave the information in the comments and I will address them appropriately.]


  1. That is so cool, I never about this!~New follower from Weekend Social Mix Blog Hop.


  2. Hi Meryl! I've adapted well to all this technology and stuff, but my husband has NOT! He doesn't understand any of it, and we are in a BIG conflict over this. He doesn't believe that our 17 year old daughter needs a texting phone. I got her one anyways because that's how all of her friends communicate with each other. Our phone at home rarely rings except for sales calls, appt. confirmations and my Mom lol. He still has in his mind that a basic cell phone for emergencies only is the way to go, and that's all that you need. Grrrr.... so frustrating!

    Thank you for linking up with my NO RULES Weekend Blog Party which brought me right to this post!


  3. Great post! Very thoughtful and interesting. Will be back to visit again. Please visit me and link up if you have time at

  4. My goodness, you put the year in a time capsule, and the most interesting and thoughtful narrative. Thanks for giving me a new word, and it's meaning! So much has changed since my grandparents lived and died in this great country.

  5. I always have a vague discomfort with this zeitgeist thing. well, maybe it's just the glibness of Twitter trending and Google searches and self-selecting polls and ABC News' "what's tracking" thing as a shortcut for real analysis of what's really going on in the world.

    That said, it's difficult top ignore Sandy - Sandy Point Elementary, Hurricane Sandy.

    Warmest March since we started tracking these things. More mass shootings, in Wisconsin, Colorado and elsewhere. Overloaded expense of political campaigns, costing over a BILLION dollars just at the Presidential level. If not war, then at least hostility towards women - what's his face calling Sandra Fluke a slut, or "legitimate rape" - and ending up with 20 US Senators who are women. Class warfare, too - Romney's "lazy" 47%. US drones killing innocents. Britain getting its mojo back with the Olympics, but also the Queen's jubilee and some wedding the year before that seems to still have an afterglow.

    Music: Gangnam Style. Call Me Maybe. TV: The truly horrific Honey Boo Boo.

  6. Great word for Z and an interesting post. It is amazing how the dissemination of information has changed. I remember when there was a lot of talk about TV news replacing newspapers and radio but in terms of newspapers it didn't really happen or not for me and my family, although newspapers became more headline and photograph oriented. The internet has had a major impact on print journalism, possibly even more than TV did. It's possible to read a lot of newspapers online, including local ones, but in terms of the delivered morning paper they seem to be at least half advertisements. It also used to be easier to find information online but as you said there is so much to wade through in terms of inferior sources and sound bites, even web searches are harder. Carver, ABC Wed. Team

  7. Great post! My dad has not adapted to gadgets too and no matter how much we try to teach him to use a celphone, he's just not interested.

    My entries:
    Liz (mcn)
    Liz (mot)

  8. Another powerful, informative and interesting post Meryl. Thank you for all the research.
    I really have to chew on this one a bit.
    I guess I have slowly entered into the techie age, if only to stay in touch with family and friends.

  9. Saw your (follows) on the wordless Wednesday hop. Thought I would check you out as inquiring minds do wander. If you are interested here is a link to my WW Linky:

    Drop by and say Hello anytime! :)

  10. Great post and pics! Thanks for sharing :)

  11. Amazing images. Love it when I read and learn something new. Thank you for posting this.

  12. You have some amazing photos in this post! It's been a nice way to go over events of last year.

  13. Thanks for sharing this! Something interesting to think about!

    Happy Wednesday!

  14. How great that you would share with us, awesome to see, read and learn in just one post. Thanks and thx for linking to our WW
    Have a great day!

  15. Oh my goodness, we chose the same word! How neat! Your research is comprehensive and absolutely fascinating and rather puts me to shame and I really enjoyed it. For entertainment, so many thoughts come to mind. I guess Gengnam Style would have to be included, and Justin Bieber too, but I like to think that some of the concerts we saw in Vancouver might fit in as well. A new wave of period instruments and "Early Music" performances, a black-humour drama about the end of the world, a choir that works without a conductor, a modern dance duo in a performance called "Me So You So Me" are just some thoughts.

  16. Well done. Human nature is always an interesting study.

  17. Podcasting and vidcasting including the top of the line channels @


    This is where a lot of people I know get their entertainment.

  18. Great post and photos. Thanks for your visit! Yes I enjoyed my holiday immensely!

  19. All of which only goes to show how hopelessly out of touch with our era I am! I feel like I am drowning in communication. The more that comes at me, the more I want to step back and breathe in order to retain my own thoughts without being bombarded by everybody else's individualism.

  20. Interesting collection of pictures. It always draws my attention at the end of the year...all the "top stories" lists.

    Following from the Friendship Friday hop at Create With Joy. :O)

  21. Hi Meryl! Sorry for my short comment. There was something wrong with my computer so that I had to write a short answer to your visit.
    Zeitgeist is a good word. In spite of the fact that I am on internet and have a blog, I still feel that I don't belong to the "Spirit of this Time" or "Zeitgeist". I live more and more in the past. I long for the music I enjoyed. I never listened to Whitney Houston or other modern singers. "One Direction"is a group my student loves, therefore I listen to it. My grandchildren listen to music I never heard of.They are on Facebook, so am I but I never go there. My "Tijdgeest" 0r Zeitgeist is oldfashioned. If I have to describe our Zeitgeist I'd say: It's a time of violence and understanding, it's a time of war and peace, love and hate, respect and disrespect. The contrasts are stronger than when I was young. Well everything goes faster, so I live by the day.Have a great day!

  22. Great photos and great insight! I found you on That Friday Blog Hop and am your newest follower. Check out my blog sometime and follow back if you'd like :)
    The Real McCoy(s)

  23. Very interesting information.

    I think the photo of Hurricane Sandy with the roller coaster torn and underwater in Seaside Heights, NJ is VERY powerful. I couldn't stop contemplating the power of Sandy after seeing it.

    I am surprised that so many people had searched for Michael Clark Duncan.

    I have never heard of the Pussy Riots, so that is something I will have to look up.

    I'm stopping by from Create with Joy's Friendship Friday hop. Have a great night.

  24. That was quite interesting and informative. I sometimes don't think about nor perhaps realize what's involved in changes. Gives me more to contemplate! And, who knew - so much is being compiled in our points/clicks. (ha). Jenn

  25. Fascinating analysis! How funny that the only word I searched for in the entire list was "Gangnam Style" - I had to know the translation. ;D

    ♥ aquariann
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