Playful Visualizations at Work, Working Visualizations at Play

Last week, I posted a “quilt” of sorts, made by digitally stitching together images of both the English and Spanish History flow results for “José Agustín.”   The inspiration for that visualization was two-part: 1) an opportunity to play around with the History Flow tool more (which I have mentioned before and with which I have enjoyed creating beautiful and colorful designs) and 2) Creating some kind of graphic representation for the bicultural influences Agustín shows in his work.  In some of Agustín’s early novels, he incorporates elements of American Popular culture from the early 60s and in some interviews he has cited the Beat Generation as an influence in his work.  Thus, I wanted to demonstrate not only Agustín’s perspective as a young Mexican writer in the early 1960s witnessing the border crossing of different cultural elements, but also of my perspective as an American student in the 21st century looking at Agustín’s perspective as a young Mexican writer looking at….(you get my point).  Wikipedia seemed like a good starting point to find a collective “definition” of Agustín, and there are search options in both English and Spanish.  It is important to point out that I recognize that “English” Wikipedia does NOT equate “American” and similarly, that “Spanish” Wikipedia does NOT equate “Mexican.”  So yes, this may not be the most Scientific study in terms of my initial goals (i.e. creating a visualization in terms of examining different cultural elements), but, I believe it introduces interesting questions about the differences and similarities of both History Flow designs.  Here is a refresher of the History Flow results for Agustín:

What do these results mean?  I can’t say for sure.  I could explain the different edits that have taken place, the arguments and deletions, and the creation of new secondary pages.  For example, in the English version, the page appears to lose a large amount of content about half-way on the x-axis.  This is because information about selected novels was deleted and re-posted on a newly created, linked page dedicated to the novels.  The black vertical gap on the Spanish result?  That is most likely vandalism, where the page was fully deleted by one editor.  Could we say that because there is evidence of vandalism on the Spanish result and not on the English, that Agustín has a more polemic presence in the Spanish-speaking world?  We could say that, but that is a big assumption, and there are many other factors at hand.  In fact, I would urge against any “conclusions” and instead look for any trends or patterns.  Comparing the Agustín pages piqued my curiosity about the English and Spanish results of other Wikipedia pages.  I decided to look at the results for other writers of the Onda (Gustavo Sainz and Parménides García Saldaña), the Literature of the Onda (searched by “La Onda” in English, and “Literatura de la onda” in Spanish) and just for fun, Mexican Literature (or, in the Spanish search, “Literatura de México).  Here are the results presented in a grid (x-axis L->R English, Spanish; y-axis Wikipedia search):

To me, what is of interest is: 1) Lack of entry for Parménides García Saldaña in English and 2) the English result for Mexican Literature: very few editors and changes, and then a big deletion.  I did not see any major trends or patterns save that the Spanish entries are more detailed.  This makes sense, I searched Mexican authors and topics.  This spurred my next comparison, American authors and novels.  I settled on Jack Kerouac (of the famed-Agustín-inspiring Beat generation) and “The Catcher in the Rye” (because I recently picked it up again, and comparisons have been drawn between some of Agustín’s first novels and this Salinger work):

Both the English and Spanish results for Kerouac and “The Catcher in the Rye” are similarly detailed and color-rich.  The global recognition of this particular author and this particular work is greater than that of the Onda writers, and it is important to take this fact into consideration.

Looking at all of the images, to me,  the English and Spanish versions of “The Catcher in the Rye” are the most similar.  They both seem to follow a similar pattern and have a similar amount of zig-zagging.   In contrast, The “Mexican Literature” results are the most different (excluding the García Saldaña page, for obvious reasons).

Earlier I advised against making conclusions, and I stand by that statement.  I think this particular exploratory exercise dwells more in the ludic, and less in the analytic, and I’m okay with that.

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Comments on: "(Still) going with the flow…" (1)

  1. meagfitzska said:

    Having watched your history flow work has encouraged me to look at it for almost every book that I am working on in my dissertation! I think the “excavation” you are doing is excellent.

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