Analytics is all the rage. Thus Keith Pompey, "Sixers aide immerses Brown in analytics", Philadelphia Inquirer 4/7/2014
Brett Brown is inherently curious.
The first-year 76ers coach was eager to learn as much as possible about the data that tell us where every player is during every possession of an NBA game. It's called analytics, and the Sixers are among the NBA franchises that are shifting toward basing major decisions on data and model-driven analysis.
"There's always the thing that they call unintended consequences," said Brown, who was introduced to analytics this season. "That's where my curiosity combined with, yeah, you know, there's a bit of defiance in me that I don't believe it. Prove it. And what about this? What about that?
"And if you can get through all those type of layers, I say, 'Wow.' And I feel like I've improved."
So much so that the 53-year-old is fond of Lance Pearson, who deals with advanced analytics and statistical scouting for the Sixers. Pearson was hired away from Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., where he was an assistant coach and special assistant in analytics. He has a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience from Boston University. Pearson also has bachelor's degrees in computer science, mathematics and philosophy from Kentucky.
Until a decade or two ago, the word analytics was limited for me to exactly one context, namely the title of Aristotle's Prior Analytics.
Now analytics seems to be everywhere. There's Google Analytics, which "shows you the full customer picture across ads and videos, websites and social tools, tablets and smartphones". Harvard Business Review is ready to tell you "Why Your Analytics Are Failing You", without any fear that you might not know what your analytics are. UMd just got a Gates Foundation grant "to better gather and use learning analytics". And so on, though tens of thousands of web sites, news articles, book chapters, and scholarly articles.
This is all consistent with the meaning that the Wikipedia entry suggests should be associated with Aristotle's use of analytics, namely "finding the reasoned facts". And it fits exactly sense 1.b. of the OED's (revised in 2010) entry:
1.a. Chiefly Philos. The science or method of using analysis to examine something complex; spec. the branch of logic that deals with analysis, esp. with reference to the book of the same name by Aristotle.
1.b. The collation and analysis of data or statistics, esp. by computer, typically for financial or commercial purposes; the data that results from this; (also) software used for this purpose.
The OED's citations for sense 1.b go back to 1966 (though I don't think that I encountered this usage until the late 1990s):
1966 Econ. & Polit. Weekly 15 Oct. 377/1 A correct conclusion from the analytics of comparative statics.
1980 Amer. Banker (Nexis) 25 July, Understanding the analytics, setting servicing standards, and selling the system to branch operating folks.
2001 Financial Times 27 Jan. 9/7 (advt.) All the features active traders need, including news, charts, analytics and direct trading capabilities.
2009 A. Kaushik Web Analytics 2·0 xiii. 394 In the last few years I have implemented at least 25 analytics tools on my blog.
Looking for older uses in Google Books, I discovered something really interesting: Lucius Adelno Sherman, Analytics of Literature: A Manual for the Objective Study of English Prose and Poetry, 1893. (Also available from the Internet Archive.)
And apparently Willa Cather studied with Sherman in 1892 or 1893 at the University of Nebraska, so we can learn something about his Analytics from Bernice Slote's discussion in the introduction to The Kingdom of Art: Willa Cather's First Principles and Critical Statements, 1893-1896 (pp. 18-19):
Willa's conflict with Professor L.A. Sherman was less dramatic but more extended, and it has enough larger significance in her work to justify some detail. Minor skirmishes came between Sherman's book column in the News and Willa's in the Journal, as when Sherman called Trilby immoral and Willa rejoined with several eloquent defenses of both book and principle. But chiefly she opposed his efforts to make the study of literature and language scientific, a purpose he stated and defended in his Analytics of Literature (1893). Sherman was not all bad, even for Willa; in the Analytics are many insights that obviously influenced her. But some attitudes seemed to her both ignorant and ruthless. Often his scientific method came down to mere word-counting: judging by published examples, he and his students had counted words of nearly a hundred thousand sentences in works of seventy authors from Spenser to Henry James. Half of Analytics is devoted to such analyses of sentence length, comparative predication, and ratios of force, with charts, diagrams, formulae, and equations. Willa wrote a number of satires on Sherman's analytics, recalled one of her friends, including some poems on the "counting" assignments. Though unsigned, the "count" poems in the Hesperian are easily recognizable. For example, on December 1, 1893, there was "He Took Analytics":
I am dying, Egypt, dying,
Ebbs the crimson life-tide fast;
And the dark Plutonian shadows
Gather on the evening blast;
Ah I counted, Queen, and counted,
And rows of figures massed
Till e'en my days are numbered,
And I'm counted out at last.
Ms. Cather's skepticism notwithstanding, it's basically a positive trend that increasingly diverse segments of our society are coming to believe that "finding the reasoned facts" is a good thing to do. And I was interested to discover L.A. Sherman, a digital humanist avant la lettre.