By Kurt Fendt on May 7, 2012
From 23-28 April 2012, Johanna Drucker, professor of information studies at UCLA and well-known theorist of digital humanities, led a series of workshop sessions that engaged more then 20 participants in discussingapproaches to data visualization in the humanities. The workshop, titled “Visualizing Interpretation,” asked major questions that humanists face when working in the digital terrain: How can we create digital models that incorporate ways of knowing that are unique to the humanities? What are the issues facing the longevity and sustainability of digital projects in the humanities? What new opportunities and intellectual tasks do increasingly larger scale data sets present us with? As Drucker summarized the workshop’s questions: “What do humanists need to do our business digitally? And what do humanistic methods and values bring to digital work—and why does that matter?”
The workshop examined these issues from many angles, including problems of visualization, the use of scale, and working with large data sets. In order to ground the discussion in real-world conditions, the workshop revolved around the case study of a real-world design problem: a digital platform, combining archival and social-media features, for use in a course on the cultural history of Los Angeles that will be taught in a future semester at UCLA. The larger goal in developing such a site, Drucker said, is to think about how to create a sustainable set of tools that can be repurposed by other scholars: “What kind of combinatorial, modular environment can we create that will not go out of date? What kind of environment will support this?”
Design sketches and further results from the workshop will be posted here shortly.
Text by Elyse Graham and Jia Zhang.