The Shape of History

What is the story we tell about the origins of modern data visualization? What alternate histories might emerge, what new forms might we imagine, and what new arguments might we make, if we told that story differently?

The Shape of History presents one such story, drawing from the understudied visualization work of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody. The project combines original archival research with interactive visualizations in order to demonstrate how the tools and techniques of data visualization carry very specific assumptions about how knowledge is produced and perceived.

In Spring 2017, the project team launched, an interactive website that guides viewers through Peabody's images and ideas. The team is also working to recreate Peabody's lost "floor charts" using physical computing materials. The floor charts were rug-sized versions of her images that she designed for classroom use. Follow the progress of this project on the DH Lab research blog.

“This project has been instrumental for me as an undergraduate student. Not only did it build me into a better web developer, it also taught me an invaluable lesson about working on real-world  projects. The Shape of History [the funded project] was the first DH Lab project at Georgia Tech utilizing both graduates and undergraduates, and now every member of that project is connected to the following: a published paper, a completed website, and a peer-reviewed journal article… Programs like [DILAC] create success stories like mine. We need more programs like this-- programs which bring college freshman into the research community. I now have a lasting connection to research, in fact, next week I will be continuing work on our next DH Lab project. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.”

- Adam Hayward, second-year computational media student, quoted in remarks delivered at the Digital Humanities annual conference, held in Montreal, Canada, in August 2017

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Lauren Klein
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