1) Hello. Thank you. 2) You’ll notice I’ve changed the title of my presentation a bit. Partially, it’s because I’m an indecisive academic, but mostly, it is in reaction to my experience of co-hosting a HASTAC forum on Vi sualization Across Disciplines this past week. There’s been some amazingly rich conversation. It’s still open for participation by the way (there’s the URL)! So, instead of talking about my own research (which is on the simultaneous analytic, aesthetic, and social use of data visualization), I’m going be a bit more theoretical and hopefully thought provoking.
1) As a new media scholar with one foot in visualization and the other in the digital humanities, I often find myself asking myself this: Wh at (exactly) is visualization in the digital humanities? 2) We’ve already established and can agree upon the WHY
1) But what I’m more interested in what we never really talk about is the HOW. HOW do we use visualization in the digital humanities? How does it function at the level of epistemology? Is it a tool? A research lens? A communication medium? Something else? 2) What I’m going to do in this presentation is focus on the first option -- tool-- and try to expand the way we think about visualization in the digital humanities to something beyond this construct.
We could certainly come up with others, but what I want to note are two important aspects:There are two important points to make: 1. the visualizations I’m talking about are digital 2. they help us to “make sense” of data
[SLIDE] OK, So 1) Usually, we think of visualization in the digital humanities, we think of it as a digital tool . 2) This comes as no surprise given the field’s historical origins.
1) Early digital humanities projects, like John Burrow’s textual-analysis of 17 th and 18 th century verse used visualization complemented by statistics to help “ ma ke sense ” of the large volumes of data now available to humanities inquiry. 2) The culture of digitization that characterized the digital humanities through the 2000s only magnified these volumes, and scholars increasingly began use visualization to look not only at textual content but also spatiotemporal data, non-text artifacts and related metadata over the longue duree. 3) Over the last 10 or so years, countless digital humanities projects have pushed visualization’s humanistic application in this functional tool-driven way.
A good example is “ Ma pping the Republic of Letters. ” The project, which was not incidentally developed as part of Stanford’s Tooling up for Digital Histories Project, uses visualization to help scholars explore the over 55,000 letters and documents digitally archived in the Electronic Enlightenment Database. By “ma pping out ” geographic and related data for senders and receivers of letters from the time period (also known as the Re public of letters), it allows researchers to perceive larger patterns of intellectual exchange.
“ Ma pping the Republic of Letters ” was created for the particular project from the ground up, but we could just as easily look any of the many projects created by scholars using one publicly available visualization toolkits – such as Gephi, NodeXL, ManyEyes, Google Fusion Tables, the list goes on.
Or perhaps the ultimate example of visualization’s role as TOOL within the field is its integration within software and research environments designed specifically for humanistic research. TAPoR 2.0, RoSE, Lev Manovich’s ImagePlot (which I helped build) or Tanya Clement’s still under development platform for humanities visualization.
In each of these examples, what visualization is allowing us to do is to: 1) extend our conceptual scope and reach 2) create and/or discover new knowledge … .and then also represent this process But digital tools are often more than tools (this is one of the big ideas of HASTAC, right?) It’s not just that visualization is a graphical or cognitive aid to thinking …
It’s a tool for the mind we say we see when we mean understand allow visual perception to be used in creation or discovery of new knowledge (in the process of using) extends perceptual scope and reach
This isn’t a new idea. It was originally proposed by Rudolf Arnheim in his 1969 book Visual Thinking which argues that all perceiving is also thinking. The two, as he puts it are “ in divisibly intertwined ” It has since been expanded by many scholars in the name of information visualization, media studies, contemporary technogenesis, theories of extended cognition .. .and in our forum this past week under the guise of a conversation about process in visualization.
The take away is that this thinking happens in the process of both creation and perception of visualization. It’s really is an entire framework for building, communicating, and most importantly experiencing knowledge. So the question becomes, how to we build this iterative process (including the data wrangling, the uncertainty, and the experience of knowledge) into the visualization? This is especially important for visualization in the humanities where data is often uncertain and we want to show analytic interpretation. I think it’s also especially relevant for addressing the common critique of visualizations – that they’re too positivistic.
The most interesting example that came up in conversation (thanks to Mia Ridge) was a Lattice Uncertainty Visualization that came out of University of Calgary and University of Toronto. It’s essentially a visualization that sits on top of a translation algorithm for an IM conversation between a German speaker and an English speaker. What happens is that the German speaker types a message in German and what comes out on the other screen is this. Every path through the lattice represents a hypothesis about the translation. The varying transparency of each node reveals the certainty of the each word (with the dark blue being more certain). The use can then go through and interactively change the horizontal green path through the lattice to indicate a better translation. The most interesting example that came up in conversation (thanks to Mia Ridge) was a Lattice Uncertainty Visualization that came out of University of Calgary and University of Toronto. It’s essentially a visualization that sits on top of a translation algorithm for an IM conversation between a German speaker and an English speaker. What happens is that the German speaker types a message in German and what comes out on the other screen is this. Every path through the lattice represents a hypothesis about the translation. The varying transparency of each node reveals the certainty of the each word (with the dark blue being more certain). The use can then go through and interactively change the horizontal green path through the lattice to indicate a better translation. What I find fascinating about this visualization is not only that it reveals not only the uncertainty of the algorithm and the influence of viewer interpretation. It essentially forces the viewer to go through the creation and reception of the visualization process (even if it is just only a small part of the process).
Opinions? Reactions? Ideas about how to incorporate process into visualization? And so I’ll end with the question I began with: W hat is visualization in the digital humanities? Hopefully, I’ve made this a little more difficult to answer.
VISUALIZATIONas a Digital Humanities ?Tara ZepelUniversity of California, San Diegotarazee@gmail.comhttp://hastac.org/forums/visualization-across-disciplines
What is visualizationin the digital humanities?
a tool … ?a research lens … ?a medium … ?a ______ … ?What is visualizationin the digital humanities?
visualization“The use of computer-supported, interactive,visual representations of abstract data toamplify cognition.” (Card et al., 1999)“…the graphical display of abstractinformation for two purposes: sense-making(also called data analysis) andcommunication.” (Stephen Few)