Dr. Akdag Salah, I really appreciate this quick introduction to an interesting and unique method of conducting humanities research. I think it's important to explore methods for distilling complex information in ways that will lead to further analysis and communication.
My immediate question was this: if humanities scholars don't ask about the parameters, what do they ask about first? I thought I might take a guess based on my own reaction: my first thought was that these diagrams ultimately demonstrate hierarchies in the approaches analysts take when examining art. There's a great deal of interpretation at work in the design of a diagram, and the way a diagram is organized says a lot about the assumptions of the designer. Maybe I wonder about that first because I'm located in the humanities; I ponder ways to interpret the diagram itself as a work of art .
This interdisciplinary reaction to your visualizations reminded me of an article I recently read called "Boundary Objects as Rhetorical Exigence: Knowledge Mapping and Interdisciplinary Cooperation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory" by Greg Wilson and Carl G. Herndl. In it, they identify a boundary object as a "strategy that articulates the work, knowledge, and information produced by a remarkable range of people" (Wilson and Herndl, 2007, p. 134). I see these visualizations as boundary objects, inviting humanities scholars to view their work from scientific perspectives while inviting those in the sciences to apply their studies to humanities subjects. It appears to be an opportunity to apply scientific approaches to art analysis, using diagrams that can be clearly understood by those in the sciences, thereby opening opportunities for interdisciplinary research and analysis.
The subject of maps and cartography and “truths” as relates to visualizing information reminds me of feminist methodologies of remapping histories, theories, and rhetorics, methodologies that call for “recharting the plains, valleys, and borders” of the artifacts we study and the spaces/places that contextualize them as well as the “accounting for all the pockets of as-yet-unaccounted-for activity” (Glenn, 1994). Glenn, of course, talks more specifically of remapping and regendering rhetoric; however, the general notion of maps as a way of exploring and then visualizing concepts transcends metaphorical language when we ask students to use mapping applications to visualize information. And, Chapman gets to the heart of this in the second part of his post. I appreciate his careful acknowledgment of the need to keep in mind the power dynamics and differentials at play when knowledge and information are presented as objective “truths.” As such, asking students to map or visualize data presents an opportune moment for exploring with them notions of truth, objectivity, and authority and power by discussing the potential for coexisting and sometimes competing ways of knowing rather than a need to arrive at a particular truth or even truths. Part of asking students to visualize information asks them to engage in practices of visual rhetoric and should, perhaps, involve asking them to think about the rhetorical power wielded, both wittingly and unwittingly, through the use of these visual tools and the artifacts they produce. Doing so seems the pedagogically sound, even responsible, thing to do.
Glenn, C. (1994). Sex, lies, and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the history of rhetoric. College Composition and Communication, 45, 180-199.
I agree that in many ways we should be having a better conversation about the best practices for this kind of research. A criticism of the digital humanities in general could be the focus on production of new tools and methods over the critical analysis of what those products can do. This stance begs me to ask a question that Kenneth Fitzgerald mentioned on Friday. We create all of these visualizations, but what rhetorical structuring goes into that? If visualization is in many ways a solution looking for a problem, how can we assess some of the assumptions with that solution?
Neatline is definitely a perfect response to this month's survey question, and an exciting new tool for humanities researchers. That the site allows you to layer different data sets-highlighting the 'instability' that is humanities work-really is incredible for understanding how different research has accumulated over time and, as we are literally shown in Neatline, space. I wonder how often this type of data visualization is used in the classroom, as it seems a perfect way to help students both understand others' research, as well as to express their own. As someone unfamiliar with Neatline prior to this post (and with an aspiring History teacher for a brother), I also wonder if it can be used for teaching younger students that often grow bored with following timelines in traditional textbooks, or if it is more appropriate for advanced scholars and researchers. Thanks for sharing this awesome data visualization tool!
Interesting, does this mean, as long as the expectations about a specific genre are met, it is effective? How would we for example define what we mean by the 'effectiveness' of the genre of a digital story ? Is it effective if it engages the audience through emotions? Do you need / expect this sentimentality from a digital story and hence this makes it effective? Maybe we would then have to question the whole idea of digital storytelling for a critical engagement across difference? Hmm…But what about so-called 'critical digital storytelling' projects, which for example combine ideas of critical race theory and critical counterstorytelling with digital storytelling? Would you say that even though a critical theory framework was used, to e.g. focus on stories of marginalised students, stories that are usually not heard, just by the mere fact, that a digital storytelling as a genre will by default be sentimental and for example tend to use images that evoke pity, this would be counterproductive? I will have to engage with rhetorical studies in more detail to try and understand how their notions of pathos could help me here…
I am interested in the debate here between sentimentality in the construction of digital narratives of oppression, like the example from your class, and the appropriation of that sentimentality in consumer culture, which the IKEA commercial mocks. The IKEA commercial and a narrative of sentimentality and material culture reminds me of a similar story on NPR on The Afterlife of American Clothes, which I listened to last night, but it plays with sentimentality in a different way.
The project you shared, to me, seems to adopt what I perceive to be tropes of sentimentality, particularly the images shared, but I do not think that they are thus ineffective. In genre studies particularly, we talk about the expectations that our reader has for a work to match a certain number of expectations. I think here, also of rhetoric and the notion of pathos or an appeal to pity/emotion. Rhetorical studies have looked at pathos in great deal, both in its effectiveness and in how overplaying pathos hurts an argument. I wonder if rhetorical studies might help to frame this narrative question?
I wonder how these fan-made versions of zombie narratives both differ from and mirror the mainstream zombie narratives of the Romeros, Kirkmans, and Boyds of the world. Are genre conventions typically subverted or is the opportunity used to expose, play, and/or circumvent the tropes of the genre?
Additionally, what is it that makes zombie narratives such an appealingly fertile ground for fan-made or independently-funded projects while other horror genres (vampire, lab monsters, etc.) don't enjoy that sort of attention?
I was so excited when I saw the title of this post. I have been teaching a zombie literature/composition course for the past few years. The course traces the zombie (narrative) from the first zombie stories to the present. I require the students to write a zombie story at the end of the course. Many of the students post and share their stories on zombie fan sites. Some have even turned their stories into YouTube videos.
Prior to this, I never considered technology's impact on the zombie narrative beyond improved graphics in zombie films. Technology has provided zombie fans agency that many other fan cultures have had for several years. This post has started the wheels turning in regards to how the change in zombie narrative will impact the apocalyptic rhetoric often associated with zombies and the rhetoric of zombies in general.
I think varying the line thickness or color to symbolize the difference between narrative and discourse time is a fantastic idea. I agree that this project could be done with multiple static print maps, charting the author's journey, but you're right that a digital map offers so much more in the way of layers and visualization tool. I've been playing with adding layers to the base map, and I like the freedom it gives users to isolate certain features on the map or see multiple elements at once. I'm still so new to ArcGIS and the digital mapping world that I have to remind myself to think beyond the static map and instead imagine the interactive possibilities of a digital map. Thank you for your suggestions.
Jamie, Thank you for the suggestions. I've heard of Neatline, but I haven't explored its capabilities for this specific project yet. I think you're right that it could help me address some of the issues I ran into with imagining the space of the narrative. I'll check it out!