At the end of his article, professor Lubar illustrates many different ways in which a typical timeline could be improved and suggests that enhancing the complexity of a timeline, while keeping its power, is a goal that should be pursued.
Looking at the most popular interactive timelines from the web, it seems to me that a common characteristic amongst them is the visualization if the link between time and place, the combination of timelines and maps (historical maps but also Google Maps). I am looking for example at website like histrodamus, myhistro, historypin and neatline. Visualizing a place is clearly a way to expand the information of the “time data” (when and where) but also a way to stimulate a deeper understanding of the events (why X happened there and not somewhere else). Furthermore the immediacy of the geographic representation can help the user to better connect the events with his own experience (swiping the screen of Google Maps, Siria’s massacres seem to be much closer to Providence) and maybe overcome the emotional distance between the user and an event lost in the past.
Along with the massive use of maps, all these timelines allow the users to interact, uploading pictures, video, music but, maybe more important, to share (myhistro is also an App). Sharing is the backbone of today social networking of course, but I suspect that allowing to share a timeline, therefore allowing continuous changes and different prospective, mainly engages the user because in a way overcomes the absence of choices of a standard timeline, “The exhibition timeline eliminates the choices that were made. It suggests that there were no alternatives; timelines have no branches for ‘paths not taken.” (Lubar, 171).
Analyzing how popular websites try to go beyond the “straightforwardness” of a timeline (or the strategies used by videogames designers to complicate the game linear narrative while maintaining it) can help to find new ways to organize museum timelines too.
(WW2 Tweets from 1941 is another interesting and popular example – almost 300,000 followers on Twitter – of a different prospective and a different way to experience a timeline).