Because of my interest in Renaissance drama and visual art, I am interested in connections, relationships, and patterns between Renaissance verbal and visual media. I’m also interested in how Renaissance playwrights and visual artists might be connected culturally, artistically, and professionally. For this reason, I’ve pursued digital visualization tools to use for my CHI Fellowship project. Having just presented on Palladio (with additional references to Tableau and Voyant), I’ve become more reflective of what visualization tools are, and what they are not.
The first question I’ve asked myself is why I should visualize my data at all. The short answer is that visualizing data allows me to view my data in a different way and it also allows me to present it to others in a tangible, approachable manner. For example, I am interested in the way in which Shakespeare uses emerging English artistic theory in his plays. So one of the first things I look for is when, how, and to what effect Shakespeare incorporates artistic terminology in his writing. While I could complete some close readings on these key passages, relate them to relevant primary works, and then situate my argument in the field accordingly, what would happen if I added the extra step of visualization to literally view these key references in a new way? Using a different lens? Might I uncover interesting and significant connections that I could not see before?
Visualizing this data, I theorize, will allow me to see connections, patterns, and potential trends (I’ve already uncovered a few surprises during my preliminary research). For example, does Shakespeare make greater use of artistic terminology in comedies or drama? Does he use artistic terminology more in his later plays? Are there particular acts, scenes, or characters that use artistic terminology more often? These are the types of questions visualization might be able to address.
Of course digital visualization does not solve research questions for me. A graph cannot analyze itself, or the enchanting Shakespearean lines that hooked me in senior English class. But it does show me new things…it does provide me with new Ways of Seeing. From there, it is up to me; what narrative will I tell to accompany my visual? What exactly is my data story? Why does it matter that Timon of Athens includes variations of the word ‘paint’ more than a dozen times? What purpose does it serve and what is at stake by identifying the purpose of these allusions?
Over the next month I’ll continue to explore visualization tools in an effort to determine which platform is right for me and my project. Exciting things are to come in the next semester: solidifying my project, attending DH workshops at the SAA, and launching what I hope will be a useful tool for myself and others.