GVU Seed Grant Awarded for “Reimagining Humanities Visualization: A Research-through-Design Workshop for Civic and Cultural Data”

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This 3-day workshop, to be held in March 2016, will bring together leading humanities scholars with information visualization researchers in order to explore the meanings of civic and cultural “data,” and to prototype new methods for their visual display.

For instance, how might one visualize the “uncertainty” of the records of those imprisoned by the State of Georgia during the civil rights movement, records that are not only incomplete but also incorporate political bias into their underlying data? What techniques are best employed to visualize the “messy” data associated with Atlanta’s racially-charged urban housing policies, data that has deliberately been obscured to avoid public critique? Such quantifiable aspects of messiness and uncertainty have emerged as key interests in the field of information visualization, as researchers have sought to develop new strategies for visualizing increasingly complex datasets.

Yet as these examples of civic and cultural data demonstrate, messiness and uncertainty can also be qualitative, extending from the cultural and political contexts in which the datasets were first constituted, to the social and personal contexts in which visualizations of such data are perceived. These qualitative contexts cannot be represented through extant visualization techniques; nor is the visualization research that underlies the development of new techniques currently understood by the humanities scholars who could help shape its future. In bringing together these otherwise unlikely collaborators, our goal is to imagine new forms and platforms capable of portraying the humanistic dimensions of civic and cultural data, and to establish Georgia Tech as a leading center of interdisciplinary visualization research.