Readings in DH, October 2014 (part 2)

Nowviskie, B., McClure, D., Graham, W., Soroka, A., Boggs, J., & Rochester, E. (2013). Geo-Temporal Interpretation of Archival Collections with Neatline. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 28(4), 692–699. doi:10.1093/llc/fqt043

This paper describes a tool for humanities data, Neatline, which was built with the declared aim of enabling expression of the “geo-temporal dimensions” of humanities datasets. It is a visualisation tool specifically for highly interpretative results; they can be presented as exhibitions or as a means of telling subjective stories, designed as the anti-thesis of big data visualization (Nowviskie et al. 2013, 692).

Neatline was devised as a plugin for the exhibition builder, Omeka, adding to an open source project that has a wide community of users and support.

This paper outlines some ambitious aims behind the development of Neatline, including the demonstration of “the value of archival metadata to interpretative scholarship” and re-inserting “visual, incremental knowledge production, or graphesis, into the digital design process for humanities interpretation” (Nowviskie et al. 2013, 693).

One interesting aspect of this article on Neatline is that the creators want it to be used as a tool that allows users to build arguments as they use it. They do not see Neatline merely as a presentation tool for research arguments that have already been decided, instead the process of working with digital tools is seen as integral to the process of research (“method is a path to argument”; Nowviskie et al. 2013, 693).

Update: 3 November 2014

There is some interesting additional discussion around ideas of visualisation as interpretation at http://nowviskie.org/2014/neatline-and-visualization-as-interpretation/