Seeing Anew: Humanistic Approaches to Data Visualization

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:50 PM
Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton)
Benjamin MacDonald Schmidt, Northeastern University
Even within the historical profession, data visualization is not a new thing. In the public discourse and government policy, visualization has been an important way of assimilating the results of statistical efforts for over a century. Those visualizations--of large datasets like the United States Census and the movements of the merchant marine--are themselves historically significant artifacts (creating and erasing, for example, the "frontier line" in the late 19th-century US censuses). Until recently, only state actors had the capacity create these views. By showing how modern visualization techniques relate to their historical uses of these data sets, I will argue that new possibilities for re-visualization of historical data offer important ways to critically examine historical sources; and that historical data revisualization provides a fruitful place for thinking through how humanistic data analysis and visualization differs from state, corporate, and scientific practices.