Match make/ paper prototype nifty visual interfaces for particular kinds of digital objects and collections

We put stuff on maps. We can put stuff on historic maps. We can put things on timelines. What do we want to do next? There are a ton of cool visualization things going on, many of which use simple javascript libraries. Which of these are useful for cultural heritage collections? Further, what kinds of ways of visualizing are useful for what kinds of objects and collections?

In part, I think this is about a bit of a translation between the very active world of data visualization into a context where we think about various digital incarnations of cultural heritage objects. So, visualizations as interfaces for discovery of individual things as well as visualization in the more general sense of seeing the big picture. I would be interested in setting up a bit of mind meld to think through some of this. Specifically, what kinds of data do we have and what are some new ways we can create web based interfaces and visualizations to interact with and understand that data?

Here is a suggestion for how we could go about this:

1. (20 min) of swap and shareVery quickly look at a bunch of examples in these three categories: (For starters we can start listing things we want to talk about in the comments on this post)

  • a) sites with cool visual interfaces to cultural heritage collections./li>
  • b) examples of sets of items, individual objects, and other stuff that we want to interface with./li>
  • c) fun visualization widgets and interfaces that have nothing to do with the humanities but that we might mine for ideas or ideally just use.

2. (30 min) Small groups sketch out one page wireframesI would then like to break into small groups and match make some of the As Bs and Cs. Take some of these cool ideas, pick a specific kind of collections and have each of the smaller groups create a one page small paper prototype or simple wireframe of what this cool interface would look like with a particular kind of digital collection or digital object.

3. (10 min) Rapid report outWe would then take 2 minutes each to report out the pitches for these interfaces. (Could video these on someone’s phone and post to youtube?) We then post pics and one paragraph descriptions of what this interface could do for a specific kind of collection or kind of object.

I have included some initial examples of stuff we might talk a bout in part one. If your interested in this please add more ideas in the comments.

A) Example interfaces:

B) Fun Data set/item examples

C) Open Visualization Libs

So what do you think? What things should we add to the list? Who want’s to be in on this?


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  1. Tim Sherratt

    Sounds fantastic, count me in.

    A couple of other experimental collection interfaces to consider:

    Paul Hagon’s Search by colour (photos at the National Library of Australia)

    Mitchell Whitelaw’s Commons Explorer (Flickr Commons)

    And for data, all are welcome to play with my unnofficial API to the National Library of Australia’s 50 million odd digitised newspaper articles.

  2. Amanda Visconti

    Great idea! Very interested in how we can allow different ways of exploring online cultural heritage collections through visualizations and non-traditional navigation.

    I’m interested in ways of getting around the database/index/catalog structure of online archives, which can structure the way users perceive and interact with a site in ways that aren’t actually the site’s intended use. While easy to search through, linear lists make browsing (vs. searching) less serendipitous and enjoyable (to me, at least); they’re also limited by their available sort functions.

    I’m particularly interested in ways to do this with Omeka. I recently set up a more serendipitous entry into the media items in my Omeka site (www.DigitalDosPassos.com), and I’ve seen similar work on more visually based entries into Omeka collections in the front-page slideshow in E. Bell’s “Deco” theme (goo.gl/Oyg7L) and a prototype by Chris Raymond (goo.gl/Bj5pG).

    I’ll add the beautiful wefeelfine.org/ to our list of visualization examples; the site uses color-coding and captured images to organize a large amount of web-crawled blog quotations.

  3. Brian Croxall

    At the risk of not adding much to the conversation, I’ll just chime in to say that it’s a great idea and recommend that we think about the Periodic Table of Visualization, Alan Levine’s 50+ Ways to Tell a Story, and these 50 examples of data visualization.

  4. Jean Bauer

    Great idea! I love the hands on, “what do you want this to look like?” approach. Something else to think about would be Protovis from the Stanford Visualization Lab.

  5. Gary Greenberg

    I like the idea, too. I have a public media project around a music studio in an historic neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio, I’d like to offer up as data for thought.

    Public media organizations around the country are exploring the very types of visualization projects you describe.

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