Jenny Reeder

Choose Your Own Adventure, or The Loss of Specialization and Expertise in Visualization
September 19, 2006, 6:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Emmeline B. WellsI went through a Choose Your Own Adventure phase when I was I think in the sixth grade. It didn’t last very long; the books were way too easy and even though I could choose how I thought the book should end, I always ended up disappointed in the conclusion. Even though I chose to which page I would turn, I had no control over the outcome, and I would invariably go pack and change my choices to see if I could find a better end.

I am intrigued by David Staley’s ideas of visualization and implications for historians in Computers, Visualization, and History. He makes some strong points about the constraints of linearity and the multidimensional realities of real history. I agree with Staley on some accounts; I am a product of a postmodern world and believe in the importance of post-structuralism. I recognize the multiple dimensions of gender, race, religion, culture, socio-economic class, and historiography. I’m all for the inclusion of images, maps, graphs, diagrams, and charts. They can be extremely helpful.

Staley reminds us that visualization is not a “better” way to produce history, yet his argument against linearity and one-dimensional presentation compels us to believe that traditional written history is boring, pre-postmodern, and formal, not engaging the reader and maintaining a traditional elite culture of specialization and expertise. In his effort to co-partner with the reader and the historical audience, he loses the centuries of traditional historical experience, the power of chronology and linearity in understanding meaning and value, and, most importantly in my opinion, the authentic analysis available in history.

George P. Landow’s discussion of hypertextuality provides a little more insight beyond Staley. I am drawn to his description of immediate connection between footnote and text, between additional text, and between outside resources. In such a circular search, we certainly can choose our own adventure. However, and perhaps this illustrates my hidden structuralist nature, we loose the root of the matter. In such a circular, multidimensional approach to history, we loose the original foundational text.

I find that in all reality, as I experience history, whether in primary or secondary sources, I can choose my own adventure–I become active whether the text is visual or verbal. I put together primary sources and make my own conclusions, or I judge a secondary source as accurate or fair or applicable to my own work. I make my own circuitous adventure as I plunge into the sources. Doing so electronically is certainly easier and quicker, and I want to make that possible for others, but there is something about the process of fitting together the pieces in a linear, ordered way, and sharing that with others in a traditional historical setting.


2 Comments so far
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Sorry, I wrote my article on the whole choose your own adventure aspect too. Didn’t see you did the same.


Comment by Jeff

Good design, who make it?

Comment by naisioxerloro

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