One Last Data Visualization as an Inaugural CDH Intern

Over the course of this strange spring semester, I have been fortunate to serve as one of the first graduate interns at SBU’s Center for Digital Humanities. Although the many events that had been planned by the library’s DH working group and the new drop-in consulting hours that had been scheduled for this semester were cut short due to COVID-19, I nevertheless gained invaluable experience as one of the CDH’s inaugural interns. As the semester has now come to a close, this brief post summarizes the impact this opportunity has had on my studies and how the digital platforms and tools that I’ve been introduced to will continue to influence my research.

Through focusing on data visualizations, I’ve written about the methods and ethics of this DH subfield. After being introduced to a range of open-access data visualization tools under the direction of the internship’s supervisors, I landed on not only a clearer understanding of how I might incorporate data visualizations into my current work on my dissertation, but which specific tools would best provide me with the flexibility in design and navigational functions I was looking for.

In my last post, I included a number of early and experimental prototypes of data visualizations designed to map out a history of male pregnancy as a literary trope. The goal of these prototypes was to present a wide breadth of works in a succinct and innovative way (at least for the field of literary studies). Through creating these prototypes and discussing the processes with the CDH staff, I further defined what I was hoping to accomplish with my project. As a result, I have made the visualization shown in fig. 1 with the platform Lucidchart. This version offers the spatial aspects I was missing in earlier prototypes while allowing me the freedom to clearly label and organize both the medium of individual texts and offshoots of the trope’s literary history, which I had wanted to include.

Figure 1. The most recent version of my data visualization tracing the male pregnancy trope, created through Lucidchart. Note that this file size is much smaller than the actual prototype, which allows users to zoom in and out of the visualization with ease.

As with all academic projects, this one has the potential of continuing forever. Although Lucidchart has provided me with a beautiful visualization that I’m looking forward to including in my final dissertation, it also functions as a first step in a new direction. While the static image allows me to organize my data in a clear manner, it fails to account for additional information that a reader/viewer might care to know. Why, for example, have I included James Joyce’s Ulysses in my lineage? By bringing this current iteration alongside the digital storytelling platform Twine, I hope to facilitate more interactive engagement, in which clicking on various nodes would offer users further context and description.

Overall, I am extremely happy with the current version of my data visualization, expectant to see how it will be received as part of my dissertation, and thankful for the opportunity to be one of the inaugural interns at the CDH!

Jon Heggestad

Jon Heggestad

Graduate Student Intern at SBU Center for Digital Humanities
Jon Heggestad is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the English department at SBU, where he teaches and researches feminist theory, queer theory, and the digital humanities. His DH interests include data visualization, database, electronic text and new media. He is currently at work on his dissertation, which traces out a history of queer family-making and futurity through SF works of literature and film from Frankenstein to the present.
Jon Heggestad
Posted in Digital Humanities Tagged with: , , , ,