Playful Visualizations at Work, Working Visualizations at Play


Hello.  My name is Claire and I am a graduate student.

You might wonder how I happened upon this academic path of higher education in literary studies (born in Ohio, spent some years in Virginia studying Math, now enjoying my time in the Golden State), but I’ll save the long version of that story for another day.  For now, I will tell you about my current research interests (1960’s Mexico), and projects (mainly my dissertation about the novel La tumba by José Agustín).

Currently, I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCSB.   I happened upon* using visualizations in my research when I was reading about Jerome McGann and Lisa Samuels’ concept of Deformance and playing around with tools like TAPoR and Many Eyes.    By using different types of visualizations to deform La tumba, I was able to see new insights in this 1966** novel.

Not only do I think the visualizations look cool (see examples below), but they also help me as a reader/academic/student organize the text in my mind for analysis and interpretation.  I think I like making visualizations because they are subjective: what I choose to do to a text might be different than the next person.  Also, (and this question is our main quest/reasoning on this Lit + project site)the visualizations range from those that are purely artistic/a new work/almost completely separated from the text, to those that are used exclusively as tools for interpretation.  Or as we (Liz, Meaghan, and myself) have perhaps reductively stated: the pretty and the useful.

The visualizations live on a spectrum, and we want to explore this multi-faceted relationship between a) the text and its visualizations b) the different types of visualizations (pretty, useful, pretty and useful, etc.)  I have categorized my previous visualizations as both pretty and useful, but some are prettier than others.  Of course, it’s completely subjective,  what do you think?

Color Deformance La tumba: presence of female characters


My goal for this project is to create a few more new visualizations,     and hope to have  one that will achieve aesthetic greatness, and another that will be as purely interpretive and helpful to the text as possible.  How will I do this?  I’m not exactly sure.  However, one hopes that I will figure it out along the way.  Suggestions/comments are welcome.

“Gabriel” Word Tree, made with Many Eyes









*I use the term “happened upon” because as much as I would like to claim that my visualizations were well-planned with specific goals in mind, many of the useful graphs and images were the result of ludic interaction with the text.

**The novel was written in 1961 and first published in 1964.  Then, in 1966 a revised edition was published.  The 1966 version is the most studied version, and it is the one that I will use.  Thus, when I refer to La tumba, it’s the 1966 one I’m talking about.

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