Television is a geographically complex technology, as its signals ignore state and national boundaries and the physical location of a station’s tower is not as important, historically, as the distance traveled by its signal at any given point in time.  While Visualizing Southern Television (VST) 1.0 offers a visual map of television stations’ tower locations, such a map is a limited representation of whether broadcasts would have been received by viewers.

Over the course of the summer, I will be working on VST 2.0, the goal of which is to visualize the estimated reach of each tower’s broadcasts, over time, in order to show which geographical areas were within the reach of each broadcast signal. In order to achieve this, the first upgrade I will have to make is to substitute the Geo Mashup mapping interface of VST 1.0 (see Figure 1 below) with JavaScript (see Figure 2).

As shown above in Figure 2, the new interface will visually display the approximate distance each signal was being transmitted at any point in time, with each upgrade to a new antenna recorded on a separate sub-post. (Note: the above mock-up displays visual capability without regard to data—in other words, Figure 2 is intended to show visual capability of software, not accurate station data.)

VST 2.0 will also project through time as well.  Right now VST 1.0 shows all of the television stations as they were on air in 1965.  VST 2.0 will be more dynamic, showing the map through various points between 1942 and 1965.  This second upgrade will involve the addition of a time-restricted Slider bar (see Figure 3 below and source), which will link the map display to a timeline, allowing the user to move the slider and watch as stations begin operations and signals increase range. Overall, these changes will ultimately result in a far more robust and informative mapping interface (see Figure 3).

These upgrades to the user interface will result in a much more detailed representation of the reach of television to communities in the American South during this period.