Visualising text-based data: Identifying the potential of visual knowledge production through design practice

Studies in Material Thinking
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Journal Article
Studies in Material Thinking, 2015, 13 pp. 3 - 19 (16)
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An increase in the availability of digitised data coupled with the development of digital tools has enabled humanities scholars to visualise data in ways that were previously difficult, if not impossible. While digitisation has led to an increase in the use of methods that chart, graph and map text-based data, opportunities for visual methods that are non-aggregative remain underdeveloped. In this paper we use ‘Writing Rights’, a collaborative project between design and humanities scholars that examines the process of writing the ‘Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen’ (1789), to explore this issue. Through a series of visual experiments we discuss how the production of knowledge is enacted textually, within the written language, and graphically with the visual arrangement of the text. We argue that by drawing on the domain expertise of design, with its commitment to the semantic potential of the visual, practices that more wholly account for the qualitative nature of humanities data can be developed.
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