1. In the Museum
My impressions of the readings for this week lead me heavily towards the intertwined engagement of observer and creator of the data visualized. The readings suggested to me as a whole that psychology plays a key role in the perception and therefore the reception of information. I was reminded of a thought that would often cross my mind in my experiences in museums as both a participant and observer; I had often to remind myself that the “most important” part of the exhibition should be the artwork itself. Although formal analysis practiced by art historians and the recent introduction of inquiry-based teaching in the museum do place an emphasis on observation of the object before contextualizing the piece via date, title, artist and movement in an effort to engage the visitor to generate their own impressions and meanings, this is not always the approach that visitors are expecting or want.
In the cases presented in Professor Lubar’s article, the public interpreted exhibitions in various museums the way that they saw fit, regardless of curatorial intent. To me, this suggests that perhaps the way information in a curated space (organized, controlled, virtual or spatial) is digested is through the states that Bruker described; “embodied, affective, situated, circumstantial in physiological, psychological, and cultural terms.” (4) I wonder not only if it is possible to reconcile the two input sources but also if it should be attempted. There seems to be a missing question into the role of the human will and the importance it should have. Perhaps visualization should aim to be adaptive to these psychological states. I think here of “choose your own adventure games” and the idea of a viewer creating their own narrative with the tools that the curator himself/herself would use.
2. Measuring Progress
On to the question of speed, several of the authors probe into why data visualization in the humanities has not advanced as quickly as one would hope (why it seems to have stagnated in the enclosed stables of previously established scientific modes of expression) and I wonder if they might not be giving visualization as constituted by language enough credit. There is a reason for essays to have existed as the model for data visualization in the humanities, there is a reason for the literary form to have been the holding space, the Platonic khôra, of the ideas that are discussed in our fields. When the term ‘Graphesis’ was introduced to me, I could not help but think of the tension inherent in explorations of the symbolic; where there is encoding, deciphering is never far behind. I wonder about how to make the best use of the skills we have learned without engaging in the complexities of semiotics. This is not to say that I do not encourage and want to actively look for alternative methods of representation but rather to say that I would hope that the visualizations become as considerate of the qualitative (vs quantitative) characteristic of the written word.
3. On the Precipice of the Future
Druker’s mention of “logocentric and empiricist” biases of philosophical (and I would argue practical) assumptions made in information presentation highlights some of the issues that in general I would like to address in this class and also in my own research. In particular I see a need for a reformulation in what epistemological proofs can be, what shape they can form while maintaining the ability to convey information.
Barbara K. spoke of the surface qualities of prints (in the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period) as helping to convey information on the subject matter that each print was involved with. I am, as a student of art-history, interested in the use of facture (an art-historical term that means “surface”) as a way to enter into information. How much can a viewer already gather from an image without a text-based description? Out of this vein I would also like to say that I see an opportunity within the study of data visualization to experiment with tactility. Would a tactile interface into information perhaps not leave just if not more of an impression on a participant. I am hesitant sometimes to use the term “viewer” as it assumes that we do not have other senses by which to learn. The attempt for comprehensive language seeps through the works of artists like Kandinsky who in active translation would paint Schönberg’s music. Perhaps synesthetic attempts should be a consideration in data visualization. I empathize with a desire for a gestalt, a familiarity that can help people feel comfortable and ready to engage with information.