Playful Visualizations at Work, Working Visualizations at Play

Summer days

It’s been a few days since I’ve had time to contribute.  I have many excuses (final exams to grade, graduation events, friends moving out of town), but I also think there’s still this child-like joy that one experiences at the beginning of summer that sends one outside, rather than inside by the computer.  However, this does not mean that I have shirked on my work on visualizations (I’ve just not been a good poster).  As Meaghan mentioned, we had our last seminar session and presented some of our work.  It was a great session, and I was really impressed with everyone’s work.

We started our own project with the knowingly simplified goal of creating a “pretty” visualization and a “useful” one.  However, as we worked both with and within our respective texts, we found that the most productive results came from the process of creating the visualizations and not from the actual visualizations themselves.

Yet, I still wanted to make a “pretty” visualization; holding strong to our original goal.  I wanted something that was separated from the text visually, but still have an underlying connection; an image one could look at and not immediately realize its association to José Agustín or La tumba.  As follows, I present this visualization:

Quilt made by stitching together History Flow results of the English and Spanish language results of José Agustín

I call it a quilt because I digitally stitched together repeating patterns of the History Flow results of “José Agustín” from both the English and the Spanish Wikipedia sites.  I think the result turned out “pretty,” but that is a subjective term.

When presenting this image, one of our classmates, Amanda, brought up the question of design, and how much that plays a role in our visualizations.  I thought it an interesting question.  Essentially, as LuAn has progressed, we aimed to create “pretty” visualizations that are also “useful”, which plays on design’s themes of aesthetics and functionality.

When I heard her question, I realized she was right, in that we should pay attention to design, or utilize some tenets of this field.  However, I also freaked out a bit.  Already with DH  you are expected to program, or at least know a bit about programming, you are expected be adept at traditional literary analysis, you should be able to use digital graphing programs and other tools.  In short, how multidisciplinary can one be?

This summer, in addition to finishing my dissertation of course, I plan to work on refreshing my long lost coding skills, familiarize myself with more “toys” in the toy chest, and now, read up a bit about design.  Any reading suggestions?


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