The field of visualization is replete with opportunities, and subsequent methods, for investigating artifacts. Opportunities exist because many archaic data sets, stored in static formats of spreadsheets (or even mere lists) can now be considered through new tools that reveal trends. Of particular interest is the crossroad of Geospatial Information Systems and historical data — or mere location based artifacts and their place in time. This issue of PJIM advances articles that look at artifacts, both physical and informative, with an aim at knowledge discovery. The range is from the rather minimilistic ephemera of cast-off Post-it notes (Pedrini); to serious scholarship in the Sociopolitical landscape of Ancient Greece. In the first case the objective is to consider the place of momentarily-critical hand-written documents from the perspective of their collective “color.” What trends may be discovered here? In the case of deep and developed scholarship a problem with insight often arises due to the sheer scale and complexity of the information; by affixing a shared “basemap” to this collection new intelligence is revealed. Sometimes such revelation is consistent in a series of resulting displays. One can see this in our article (Zhang) that exhibits a series of plumes that reveal a complex, yet fully traceable connectivity between connections and recommendations of the Royal Society — the renderings allow analysis through comparison. From a fully controllable, application based perspective a toolset such as POLIS (Krishnan, Ober, Pyzyk) allows the researcher to build unlimited models to expose potential trends or unforeseen patterns. The excitement of applying modeling methods to data we’ve had all along and seeing new things, or being able to work with a far more actionable process is the key theme of this quarter’s articles. As always, we thank our submitters, chosen authors, and mostly, readers, for the ability to continue this exploration through sharing our methods for doing so.
Jihoon Kang, Publisher, and William Bevington, Editor-in-Chief
Parsons Journal for Information Mapping
by Maya Krishnan, Josiah Ober, PHD, Mark Pyzyk, MA
by Jia Zhang, MFA
by Noah Pedrini
Data visualization, data exploration, cartographic representation, information mapping, sociopolitical visualization
While sophisticated information visualization tools promise exciting transformations in scholarship, translating those capabilities into practical solutions can prove challenging. The “polis” project, a the product of the Stanford Classics Department, is a multi-year effort to create a visualization application capable of enabling research into the sociopolitical landscape of the Ancient Greek world. Researchers working on the polis project have digitized Oxford Classical Dictionary entries regarding over 2300 people and have united this data with information from the Inventory of Archaic and Classical Greek Poleis on over one thousand Greek cities. Through an assessment of the polis application, we demonstrate the way data visualization can facilitate original scholarly research employing large and highly rich data sets. An interactive cartographic map that provides its users with an overview of the Ancient Greek world constitutes the core of the application. This map allows the user to combine over forty filtering criteria to generate customized representations of the Greek world. Basic statistical tools enable the calculation of counts and correlations. The user can then see different maps side-by-side in a “comparison view” that enables patterndetection and the discovery of trends. Although the particular data sets visualized in this application are of special interest to classicists, the application design itself can generalize to other domains. One of the broader questions we address is how to use the tools of computer science to address research needs in the humanities. This project is a case study in using sophisticated solutions such as d3 to generate data-visualization tools capable of solving problems for humanities scholars.
Maya Krishnan currently studies computer science and philosophy at Stanford University. She has served as the technology specialist for the Classical World project. Josiah Ober holds the Constantine Mitsotakis Chair in the School of Humanities and Sciences. He writes on various topics conjoining Greek history, classical philosophy, and political theory and practice, and is currently developing projects on rational cooperation in the Greek world on the relationship between democracy and dignity. Mark Pyzyk is a PhD candidate in Stanford University’s Classics Department. His dissertation addresses the treatment of expertise in texts from the 5th and 4th century BCE Greek world. He is interested in the ways the codification of expert knowledge assists its transfer to new social and political environments.
History of science, information design, information visualization, network visualization, Royal Society
Our notion of science brings together elements of theory, experimentation, application, as well as a narrative of history, relevancy, and progress. While it strives to be objective, it can’t help but to be biographical as well, because all these ostensibly external elements are contained within the life of the scientist. This project casts the biographical unit of the scientist as a fundamental unit of scientific history through visualizing the Royal Society as a network. Established in 1660, The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. At its founding the society was structured around the seven chairs of astronomy, divinity, geometry, law, music, physics, and rhetoric. Today, the organizational structure of the society includes mathematics/computer science, astronomy/physics, chemistry, engineering, earth sciences, biology, developmental biology, anatomy, and health/human sciences. These collections of disciplines define scientific pursuit quite differently, yet they are directly connected by the society’s long history through the election of its 7,000 fellows. This is because existing members, forming direct links between each recommender and inductee, elect each member into the society. The visualization models provided center on this internal election system. They depict how the Royal Society’s use of scientists’ recommendations are a fundamental unit of force for a node-and-link model, and can be seen as an historical as well as a professional network. The historical trends can be seen through the rise and fall of individual disciplines, as well as modifications to disciplinary boundaries within the scientific network.
Jia Zhang is a graduate student in the Media Arts and Sciences Program at MIT. She completed her undergraduate studies at RISD and received her MFA from the Design and Technology Department at Parsons in 2009. She currently works with the Social Computing group concentrating on visualizations of Cities.
Digital communication, Facebook, fragmentation, handwriting, memory, Post-it, privacy, social networking, transience, Twitter
At first glance, the pixel and the Post-it couldn’t be further apart. One operates within the finite, linear value space of a color ramp, while the other navigates the infinite value space of words and ideas. But though the pixel and the Post-it may seem like complete opposites, a number of compelling similarities exist that bring unique perspective to contemporary modes of communication. Through a survey of some of these parallels and the introduction of a web-based archive that visualizes a collection of found Post-it notes, this article explores communication in flux, how our impulse to map information remains unmoved at its core, and how this pastel-colored staple of humdrum office life can be seen as an unsuspecting analogue to the ways we work with, organize and make sense of information in the connected age.
Noah Pedrini is a multimedia artist interested in exploring the self and society from a technocultural perspective. Heavily grounded in data, both publicly available and personally collected, his projects investigate identity, isolation, and privacy in the connected age. His web installations have been exhibited internationally and used in course materials for the Maryland Institute of Art and UNC Chapel Hill. Recently, he has collaborated on a number of projects with David Patman focusing on the collective unconscious and dreaming. He currently lives in New York where he works as a Senior Software Engineer at the Parsons Institute for Information Mapping.