Visualization and Interpretation: Humanistic Approaches to Display

Visualization and Interpretation: Humanistic Approaches to Display

by Johanna Drucker


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An analysis of visual epistemology in the digital humanities, with attention to the need for interpretive digital tools within humanities contexts.

In the several decades since humanists have taken up computational tools, they have borrowed many techniques from other fields, including visualization methods to create charts, graphs, diagrams, maps, and other graphic displays of information. But are these visualizations actually adequate for the interpretive approach that distinguishes much of the work in the humanities? Information visualization, as practiced today, lacks the interpretive frameworks required for humanities-oriented methodologies. In this book, Johanna Drucker continues her interrogation of visual epistemology in the digital humanities, reorienting the creation of digital tools within humanities contexts.

Drucker examines various theoretical understandings of visual images and their relation to knowledge and how the specifics of the graphical are to be engaged directly as a primary means of knowledge production for digital humanities. She draws on work from aesthetics, critical theory, and formal study of graphical systems, addressing them within the specific framework of computational and digital activity as they apply to digital humanities. Finally, she presents a series of standard problems in visualization for the humanities (including time/temporality, space/spatial relations, and data analysis), posing the investigation in terms of innovative graphical systems informed by probabilistic critical hermeneutics. She concludes with a final brief sketch of discovery tools as an additional interface into which modeling can be worked.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262044738
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 11/10/2020
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 6.31(w) x 9.31(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

“Graphs, charts and maps are often considered to be objective expressions of facts. But the fact is that they are complex texts, demanding interpretation. That is why this is an important book, building a solid bridge between the evolving field of data visualization and the long humanistic tradition of critical interpretation.”
—Martin Engebretsen, Professor in the Department of Nordic and Media Studies at the University of Agder; coeditor of Data Visualization in Society
“How can the humanities benefit from information visualization and how can visualization be more suited to the purposes of the humanities? Johanna Drucker expertly confronts these questions in her excellent new book Visualization and Interpretation. Ultimately, this timely and welcome book is about making visualization more human.”
—Helen Kennedy, Professor of Digital Society at the University of Sheffield; coeditor of Data Visualization in Society
“Drucker's new book is a very important and truly original contribution to digital humanities, data visualization, and data science fields. She develops a new paradigm for thinking about relations between cultural artifacts, knowledge, interpretation, data and visualization. The ideas presented in this book will change how we think about culture, data and display and the book itself will remain the key reference in decades to come.”
—Lev Manovich, Presidential Professor, The Graduate Center, City University of New York; author of The Language of New Media and Cultural Analytics

Johanna Drucker, book artist, visual theorist, and cultural critic, is Martin and Bernard Breslauer Professor in the Department of Information Studies at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Framework: Creating the Right Tools and Platforms 1

1 Visual Knowledge (or Graphesis): Is Drawing as Powerful as Computation? 11

2 Interpretation as Probabilistic: Showing How a Text Is Made by Reading 43

3 Graphic Arguments: Nonrepresentational Approaches to Modeling Interpretation 69

4 Interface and Enunciation, or, Who Is Speaking? 91

5 The Projects in Modeling Interpretation, or, Can We Make Arguments Visually? 111

Appendix: Design Concepts and Prototypes 139

Notes 177

Index 193

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