December 5: Mapping Time | Lab #6

Discus chronologicus, Christoph Weigel, early 1720s, via Cartographies of Time

Map Critiques: Robby, Teresa, Liam, Sur

Workshop: We’ll dedicate the final ~45 minutes of class to small-group workshops, where you can share your near-final atlases and solicit feedback. You can use this opportunity to seek guidance on any conceptual or design problem that are still stumping you, to get input on how well your atlas holds together as a cohesive unit (and whether it might need more prefatory or interstitial explanatory texts or navigational “signposts”), etc.  Please bring work in progress!

Mapping Time, HaoHao Design


Rethinking Timelines Project @ University of Sydney; Daniel Rosenberg, Time Online, University of Oregon; Speculative Timelines research group; Sybille Lammes, Chris Perkins, Alex Gekker, Sam Hind, Clancy Wilmott, and Daniel Evans, eds., Time for Mapping: Cartographic Temporalities (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018); Eviatar Zerubavel, Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

20 Replies

  • Drucker and Nowviskie notes that the problem with complex visualization of time is the difficulty in maintaining graphic legibility, and that such visualizations are often beyond our computational and conceptual capabilities. But Davis and Krautli’s method of prototyping, as well as various maps presented by Rosenberg & Grifton, suggests that our goal in mapping time could be to broaden our conceptual capabilities regarding time; legibility might matter less in this perspective.
    I wonder, thinking about last week’s class on sensory mapping, where we can go if we leave behind our preoccupation with the visual altogether – in what ways would mapping time olfactorily, gustatorily, tactually or aurally enhance our sensorial capabilities regarding time? (To me, sound, taste, smell and touch appear as more temporally-oriented, or at least the temporalities created by sound/smell/taste/touch more closely aligning with the body’s visceral experience of time than the temporality of a graphic)
    Davis and Krautli argues that chronographics require and enable critical thinking – and I wonder what kind of critical thinking chronosonics or chronosmell as a cartographic (Cartosonic? Cartolfactory? Cartosensorial?) project might require and enable. If we are to create an atlas of the expansion of our temporal sensibilities, much like Edward Quin’s atlas of the expansion of geographical knowledge, what maps would it contain, and what sensory modes would it engage?

    • Brillliant, Do-Hyeong! I was hoping to push tomorrow’s discussion past the *visualization* of time. I’m glad you’re already thinking about this! I’m especially curious to hear your thoughts about how we might represent the *expansion* of our temporal sensibilities — or, perhaps instead, the continual historical recalibration of the sensorium.

  • I was actually thinking similarly to you, Do-Hyeong, because this week I had to do a map critique for time and I chose to look at Google Street View’s function where you can go back in time when looking at certain places on Street View. This way of visualizing time is very objective and I think doesn’t lend much to the rest of our senses in thinking of how the affect of a place might change over time, not just what it looks like. I was looking at human rights in public space and was struggling to find a way to document time in relation to this, until I realized last week that public spaces also take part in this idea of “affect” and that our environments shape us greatly, and that our environments change with time.
    I also really enjoyed the vocabulary given in Drucker’s piece because time is such a multidisciplinary and abstract concept that can be applied just about anywhere, yet there are so many ideas about it all over the world. Even though it was limited it helped me visualize how time can be looked at through different lenses and made me think of all the ways that time can be thought of.

    • Thanks, Teresa! I’m really excited to hear your critique in class. And I’m glad to know that Drucker + Nowviskie’s piece offered you a useful vocabulary to think about alternative temporalities — and to imagine how we might make them experiential (if not *visible* for others).

  • This week’s readings got me to think about preoccupied conceptions. During the break, I went to Navigating New York at the New York Transit Museum. The exhibition wasn’t particularly focused on the time. However, each map and artifact was organized based on the development of the metro system in NYC overtime. The colored line on the floor led the audience to move forward. The maps and machines were arranged from left to right representing the development over time. I was comparing how the metro system advanced overtime by going back and forth, which I noticed after reading.
    Drucker and Nowviskie work(ed) on the temporality modeling project in attempts to exploring alternative for the current system, which they define “rational and logical”. Davis and Krautli rather expanded the definition of real data as “partial, incomplete, contingent” (115). Knowing how time is often taken-granted in conventional ways, the readings got me to question what time is. Is it a phenomenon? A measurement? Is it an accumulation of temporalities? How does if form our understanding?

    • Thanks, Minsoo. I’m glad you were able to see time *materialized* within the design of the transit exhibition. Our ways of mapping time — whether in an exhibition or a timeline — do have the potential to prompt big ontological and existential questions like those you’re posing here.

  • One of the interesting insights from these weeks’ readings is how much of the way time is made sense of happens through “mapping” systems. As Drucker points out, the way in which we understand not just history, but our own reality, is deeply entrenched in time frames and assumptions about temporality inflected by cultural, historical, discursive, paradigmatic, religious ideas that we often take for granted. I read Drucker’s piece with skepticism over his reliance on mechanical methods and utilitarian purposes for exploring temporality in the humanities, specially given their essentially interpretive character. What seemed more interesting to me, however, was Krautli’s insight that the ways in which temporality is visualized and represented can speak more about the interests and subjectivity of those who create categories of representation, than about the object of categorization itself. If it is important to emphasize that data (not just from the humanities) is always “subjective, flawed, incomplete, inconsistent and uncertain”, then Krautli’s critical use of design and softwares is an interesting way of bridging gaps between disciplines, and reflecting on the contingencies behind the choices made in visualizing and representing distinct temporalities. Given my attempt to combine different times and spaces in my final project, these readings make even more attentive to my own agenda.

    • Thank you, Monise! I think the contrast between Drucker + Nowviskie’s and Davis and Krautli’s approaches to mapping time does serve to remind us of the politics (and aesthetics) of its operationalization. While D+N do aim to incorporate subjective understandings of time into their data models, their approach does seem much more “mechanical” than D+K’s, which more readily embraces flaws and inconsistencies.

  • Although I was perplexed, I was particularly interested in Drucker and Nowviskie’s work with narrative and subjectivity. Drucker points out that words like “here” and “now” might be a useful way to organize thoughts in a way that takes subjective experience into account. Although, as she explains, narrative relies heavily on the idea of granularity. It becomes a struggle, if not merely a semantic one to continuously use such tenses. It is distinctly challenging to take personal perspectives into account when trying to visualize a multilayered and historical narrative through maps.

    I’m reminded of our conversation with Jer Thorp, and our discussion about organization and learning. As Jer explained, and I tried to wrap my head around, chaos theory – or at least a very essentialized version – explains that certain system are unpredictable scientifically, and likewise will remain chaotic. Although time is itself a manmade construct, the overlapping and conflicting narratives of time entangle themselves into an almost chaotic system. While I appreciate the urge to untangle the past, I wonder if it is just as unpredictable as determining the future. Is it possibly more useful to try to understand time as a perpetually chaotic mess?

    • Thanks, Liam. I agree with you: by watching these various scholars and designers attempt to grapple with time’s subjectivity and messiness by “disciplining” it into a data model does compel us to ask questions about our own temporal sensibilities. Maybe a traditional map isn’t the best way to acknowledge “perpetual chaos”? 🙂

  • Rosenberg and Grifton want to restore a certain complexity to the line as a central part of the piece of ‘mental furniture’ that has been given low status in the study of history, the chronology. This text sparked my interest because, I’d say, over the course of the semester we have explored exactly the various ways in which simplicity of techniques like the line, have created strict conceptual categories that we are trying to get away from.

    I appreciated Rosenberg and Grifton’s focus on the line as a graphic technique and the way they took seriously the various ways in which it shaped the graphic representation of time. Yet I also agree with Do-Hyeong that other senses than vision might be more capable of representing time more aligned with the ways in which we experience it. But I wonder would i.e. a sonic time map not necessarily emerge from or refer back to the same concept of linear time as the line?

    • Thanks, Laura. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the potential complexity and richness of simple geometric forms, like the line. We saw this in Manon’s presentation a few weeks ago; as you might recall, she made a simple curvy line and circle — representing the Seine and Paris — highly evocative. Are you familiar with anthropologist Tim Ingold’s work on lines?

  • Time takes many shapes as we can see in the chapter from Cartographies of time. It is mentioned that the timeline is not even 250 years old, and that makes me think of how it will evolve in the future and in relation to technology. Influenced by chronologists and historians the timeline has evolved to be more contextual as different artists applied their own methods in visualizing history. The visual vocabulary of timelines is expanded by these artists and the backgrounds they come from. As we look at these final artefacts, I wonder what the process was behind creating these visual vocabularies and how they might have been drafted in the beginning stages.

  • The readings of this week and the images of maps included also made me think of how we visualize time. Clearly, linear perception of time is represented by lines – straight, meandering, crooked, broader or more narrow – but often in the form of lines. It implies a beginning and an ending, which pushed us into a certain way of thinking and perceiving time that has imbedded direction. The circular maps stand out to me, like a compass, unclear which direction it might be. It also made me think of how 2Dmodels of time maps cn in this way be limiting, as the intersection between time/space is almost impossible to convey in this way. Installations through which the body moves, in space and time, could expand ‘visualisation’ of time to ‘experiencing’ time.

    • Thanks, Simone. You’re picking up on themes raised by Do-Hyeong and Teresa: they, too, were wondering if non-graphic, non-visual modes of representing time might better capture temporal experience.

  • The paper by Stephen Boyd Davis and Florian Kräutli had some really great insight from the perspective of digital designers trying to organize and present data in today’s world. It was useful to read through their process, complete with reflections on institutional archiving as a subjective practice and on the overlapping between designers and curators when it comes to roles played and decisions made.

    Working within the domain of digital humanities, and even more specifically working with a curatorial audience, their project exists in a context that allows for this embracing of the messy, the encouragement of critical discourse through highlighting inconsistencies and subjectivity, the holding of truth over legibility. This is great for curators to gain perspective, identify issues, improve processes, discuss implications, etc.

    It does make me wonder about expanding this thought and practice out to the general public, across the various time-based mappings we encounter in media and culture every day. What if the mainstream took to presenting infographics in a messier state? Would this ‘honesty’ in any way help combat our current era of ‘fake news’ and extreme partisanship or would the illegibility deter thoughtful readership? I guess today’s ‘fake news’ situation is due in large part because of the Internet’s inherently messy presentation of information…

    It’s really interesting to think about the timeline as we encounter it every day, in things like our social media news feeds. As a digital society, our relationship between information, time, and visual representation is weird. We’ve come to rely on the indexical usefulness that comes with our every move being timestamped in some way, whether it’s the timecode on a camera, the timestamp of an online post, a phone call or text message, our browser history, etc. Perhaps in response to the prevalence of the timestamp or perhaps as a natural manifestation of our relationship to time’s flux, we seem to also value capturing and displaying limited ‘nowness’ ala Snapchat, Instagram/FB stories…remember when instagram first started and you were a fool if you dared post a photo today that you shot yesterday without the hashtag, “#latergram”? Not so anymore.

    Image takes precedence over timing. If it’s a great photo, who cares if it was shot yesterday, but obviously that inherently changes the environment of Instagram and its role as data archive. Then think about Facebook changing the algorithms of its feeds across instagram and facebook to no longer be ‘most recent’, but instead ‘most relevant’…warping our relationship between time, information, and visual display… of course that’s a ripe opportunity to mess with ‘truth’…and thus our current state of ‘fake news’.

    It’s always interesting when an article from 5 years ago is suddenly making the rounds on Facebook as if it’s today’s news because people aren’t reading the date posted on the article itself. They’re trusting the ‘nowness’ of the social media newsfeed, both in its chronology and in its network effect, as truthful timeline.

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