Data Visualization Brings BDE (Big Data Energy)

To be honest, I considered data visualization more of a visual communication design project that probably made the creator cry at some point and question existence. A very “I see a red door and I want to paint it black” moment. But the digital humanitarians and historians who pioneered data visualization did so to “helped a new imagination emerge, wired to navigate a reality much bigger than any single person’s lived experience.” (Data Visualization and the Modern Imagination) For example, I tweeted about the BDE visualization of Florence Nightengale, Ben and Jerry’s and Truffaut’s film Jules et Jim. All different and yet the data provided a deeper understanding and some jealousy.

Micki Kaufman stated in her Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me how information for historians can be scarce or overwhelming but for students of twentieth- and twenty-first century history they can experience an information overload. This Big Data Energy or BDE required a method to present the large data subset and data visualization offered a means for presentation of the historical patterns to refute, document or prove. The computational techniques have advanced and are now utilized by historians to go beyond data collection but into a deeper interpretation of the materials available. A concern about giving credit to the source material is valid but historians and nerds alike love to go deep on footnotes and with digital humanities a link can be inserted with hopefully no 404 error at some point. Just the whisper of this possibility drains the E from BDE.

Josh McFayden demonstrated how effective and evolved mapping is in The Fir Trade in Canada by his use of timemapping or temporal GIS. With this software visualization can offer insight in environmental issues, historical events and anything that can be imagined. He described the four different types of temporal GIS features: Moving, Discrete, Stationary and change/growth which he used for the railways documentation. McFayden noted the lack of exact dates and will only require a “sample of the historical data” for their research. Visualization benefits the digital humanities by allowing more accessibility but the technology will require training and a budget to pay for the cost of courses for staff and software updates to keep BDE up to date.

(Photo: Rihanna’s Fenty X Savage limited edition BDE shirt for historians and digital humanities expers)

History & the Hotline Bling: Get the App

Curatescape creates an opportunity for the public to “pin” that location’s history with a layered experience of oral storytelling, photos and links to read. As Mark Tebeau wrote in his article Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Age, “The mobile computing revolution offers tantalizing possibilities to archivists, historians, and curators interested in reaching broader public audiences.” Now if we can just make sure the Internet connection is feeling equitable to everyone.

Chewie in front of the Fox Theatre. Click photo for a Spokane Historical story.

The Spokane Historical app offered an opportunity to deepen my education, culture and interactivity with my surroundings. There was a concern that I would be taken out of the moment by having my face in the screen but then a sweaty resignation overtook me – MY FACE MELDED WITH THE PHONE SCREEN WAY BACK. I surrendered to the digital experience offered by a community of EWU history students who were asking me to join them on a stroll through time and geek out. The tags, maps and tours added to my user experience while anticipating my next lilac city tale from the past. My pug Chewie assisted with the interactivity by posing in front of our favorite historical places.

Photo: Chewie at Doyle’s Ice Cream parlor in West Central Spokane. Click photo for a Spokane Historical story.

While our history is walkable and nearby, the article Some Account of an Extraordinary Traveler: Using Virtual Tours to Access Remote Heritage Sites of Inuit Cultural Knowledge how VR tours are potentially powerful tools for connecting people to heritage sites that might otherwise not be accessible. Apps such as this or Mark Tebeau’s O.G. Cleveland Historical give an unconventional way for people to engage in community projects and stimulate tourism.

Chewie being a tourist in her hometown at Riverfront Park. Click photo for Spokane Historical story.