Friday, 28 March 2014

Fully funded studentship in data visualisation (AHRC)

The Royal College of Art and The National Archives in London are jointly offering one fully funded PhD studentship (full time for three years) to begin late September 2014.

Studentship (AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award)
Visualising historic time to integrate data across multiple datasets

The School of Design, Royal College of Art (RCA) and The National Archives (TNA) in London are seeking applications for one fully funded Thames Consortium Studentship. Funded by AHRC, the three year PhD research programme will be supervised jointly by the RCA ( and TNA ( The studentship begins in late September 2014.

Deadline for applications: midnight (UK time) 28 April 2014. Interviews likely to be week beginning 26 May.

More information here: 

The research
You will undertake a PhD on the visualisation of archive data with particular emphasis on time-wise interactive visualisations such as timelines and other chronographics. The research is intended to break new ground in representing multiple datasets. We see this as a problem of design, technology, and historiography, where data visualisation and interactivity hold the key to making sense of large data sets. This research builds on the achievements of an existing PhD project at the RCA which has already produced important advances for partners in museums and archives, disseminated through practical demonstrations, conference presentations and papers.

This project complements the AHRC-funded Big Data project ‘Traces through Time’ led by TNA in partnership with the Institute of Historical Research, King's College London, Brighton University and the University of Leiden, to identify and link individuals across large historical datasets spanning a wide timeframe. A key output of that project will be the identification of relationships between individuals in different datasets across time, including the ‘fuzziness’ and varying levels of confidence that are a feature of historical data.

The research will be jointly supervised by Dr Stephen Boyd Davis, Research Leader in the School of Design at the RCA ( and Dr Sonia Ranade, Digital Records Specialist at The National Archives.

The studentship will cover home fees (full time) and a stipend of £15,863 per year (current London rates) for UK students or EU students who have lived in the UK for three years prior to the award.  Overseas students may also be eligible if they fulfil a range of residency requirements stipulated on the AHRC guidelines.

More information on the AHRC's doctoral maintenance and fee rates for 2014/15 can be found at  The student will be eligible for an extra £550 per year CDP allowance, in addition to (up to) £1,000 per year from TNA to cover research and travel costs.

How to apply
Please complete the online application, available here:

When you reach the screen titled “Course”, please pick “AHRC Scholarship - Visualising Historic Time” and “PhD”.

You must include a research proposal and indicative bibliography with your application. See for general guidance on PhD applications, especially paragraph 7.  Two academic references are required.

You are very welcome to discuss your ideas with Dr Stephen Boyd Davis:

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

TIME: a symposium on Time and Design

19 March 2014
10:00 – 16:15
Royal College of Art (Darwin Building)
Lecture Theatre 1

As part of the School of Design's contribution to the RCA's Research Methods Course, we present a symposium dedicated to Time and Design.

Time is the universal metric, a context for every object, life, event, alteration - but how do we design with time? What should time look like, how do we perceive it and how does it feed into how we live, act and remember? The symposium will set out historical, conceptual and cognitive problems that beset thinking about time, featuring the following speakers from the areas of psychology, history, engineering and design:

Claudia Hammond is an award-winning broadcaster, writer and psychology lecturer and the presenter of All in the Mind on BBC Radio 4, as well as programmes on BBC World Service and BBC World News TV. She is the author of the book “Time Warped” in which she delves into the mysteries of time perception. In her talk she shows how malleable our experience of time is and which factors influence how we perceive time.

Siân Lindley is part of the Socio-Digital Systems group at Microsoft Research, where she studies technologies in use and the practices that are built up around them. Siân presents two of her projects on using digital timelines for narrating personal histories, which yield unexpected insights into how representations of time shape our retelling of the past.

Matthew Shaw’s research in the history of the French Revolution, which he developed from his PhD into a major book, sheds light on perhaps one of the boldest reforms undertaken in Revolutionary France: the redesign of time itself. For almost a decade the French calendar had not only its own months and years but also decimalised hours and minutes.

John Taylor’s most ubiquitous invention has probably been used by anyone who ever switched on a kettle. However, it is his work on clocks that most captivates him. Turned inside out and controlled by a giant time-devouring mechanical creature, John’s Corpus clock required two hundred engineers, scientists and craftsmen, five years of his time, one million pounds and one Stephen Hawking for its unveiling on the wall of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University.

Peter Bennett introduces physicality in how we interact with computers through his research on Tangible Interfaces at the Bristol Interaction & Graphics Lab. A physical interface for time however proved to be problematic. Is time flexible or solid? Is time a single object or many? Is time a line, circle, spiral or even a shape at all? It is this ambiguous nature of how time can be physically represented and controlled that Peter explores in his work.

If you are from outside the RCA and plan to attend, please email to let us know. Entrance is from Jay Mews.

View Royal College of Art, London in a larger map

Friday, 6 December 2013

Pneumatic time in Paris in the nineteenth century

I just learned of an interesting AHRC-funded project on the use of pneumatic technology in Paris between 1880 and 1927 to convey standard time throughout the city. 

I quote from the minimal blog created for the project so far:
Time was in the air in major nineteenth-century western cities, where an increasing temporal awareness was coupled with a growing demand for precision in time measurement and display. But Paris stood out amongst her contemporaries; time there was indeed in the air, in compressed form, under the ground, surfacing, each minute, in public spaces and private residences to make the clock hand move. Between 1880-1927, time was pumped throughout Paris using a network of pneumatic tubes, which not only took standard time to the city’s public clocks, but also to its citizens’ homes, connecting them to the public time regime.  
This AHRC-funded project, led by Dr Mustafa Dikec (Principal Investigator) and Dr Carlos Lopez Galviz (Postdoctoral Research Assistant), looks into the dynamics and transformation of pneumatic time by reference to four inter-related themes: production, distribution, consumption and representation. Our idea is visually to explore the questions guiding the project through the images contained in each theme (see tabs at the top of his Wordpress blog).

There is a bit more here about Dr Mustafa Dikec.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Best of EVA book published

The paper I wrote with Emma Bevan and Aleksei Kudikov for EVA 2012 was chosen for a book of the best of EVA papers from four years of the conference:
Boyd Davis, S., Bevan, E. and Kudikov, A. Just In Time: defining historical chronographics. In: Jonathan Bowen, Suzanne Keene, Kia Ng (eds.) Electronic Visualisation in Arts and Culture. Springer. ISBN 978-1-4471-5405-1. 243-257.
I received my copy of the book today, and it looks good. Springer decided to use colour illustrations throughout which does make a big difference. The book is available here:
Click to go to Springer site
The EVA London Conference 1990–2012: Personal Reflections.
Part I – Imaging and Culture.
  • From Descriptions to Duplicates to Data.
  • Quantifying Culture: Four Types of Value in Visualisation.
  • Embodied Airborne Imagery: Low-Altitude Cinematic Urban Topography.
  • Back to Paper? An Alternative Approach to Conserving Digital Images into the 23rd Century.
Part II – New Art Practice.
  • Light Years: Jurassic Coast – An Immersive 3D Landscape Project.
  • Photography as a Tool of Alienation: Aura.
  • Fugue and Variations on some Themes in Art and Science.
Part III – Seeing Motion.
  • Motion Studies: The Art and Science of Bird Flight.
  • Game Catcher: Visualising and Preserving Ephemeral Movement for Research and Analysis.
  • mConduct: A Multi-Sensor Interface for the Capture and Analysis of Conducting Gesture.
  • Photocaligraphy: Writing Sign Language.
Part IV – Interaction and Interfaces.
  • Mobile Motion: Multimodal Device Augmentation for Musical Applications.
  • Legal Networks: Visualising the Violence of the Law.
  • Face, Portrait, Mask: Using a Parameterised System to Explore Synthetic Face Space.
  • Facebook as a Tool for Artistic Collaboration.
Part V – Visualising Heritage.
  • Just in Time: Defining Historical Chronographics.
  • Beckford’s Ride: The Reconstruction of Historic Landscape.
  • Reconfiguring Experimental Archaeology Using 3D Reconstruction.
Added 2 October 2013: the Contents, with authors, on the Springer site.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Strange overlaps - go by train

A hanging at Newgate prison (from Wikipedia)
As I noted here, one of the things that got me interested in chronographics was ungleichzeitigkeit, where events don't seem to line up as we feel they should. Things which seem to belong to the same time turn out to be further apart than we thought; things that seem to belong to separate eras turn out to overlap.*

An item in a television programme the other day alerted me to one of these strange overlaps.
Londoners travelled on the underground to see the city's last public hanging.
Yes, the Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground railway, opened on 9 January 1863 using gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives, while William Calcraft carried out the last public execution in England five years later, on 26 May 1868, when he hanged Michael Barrett in front of Newgate Prison for his part in the 'Clerkenwell Outrage'.   

*An interesting writer on these tendencies in our thinking is Eviatar Zerubavel, professor of sociology at Rutgers University. See his 2003 book:
Zerubavel, Eviatar. 2003. Time Maps - collective memory and the social shape of the past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Short paper for CHI workshop on Time and HCI

Florian and I developed a short paper that Florian then gave at a workshop of the CHI 2013 conference in Paris, 27 April - 2 May 2013. The call began:
In this hands-on workshop, we invite HCI [Human Computer Interaction] researchers, designers and innovators to engage with the concept of time. Time is often taken for granted in HCI, yet engaging with the assumptions that underpin it could provide a resource for research and technology innovation.
We used a mix of material to create a brief argument for using historic time-visualisation as an effective way to undermine assumptions and to provide alternative ways of thinking how time can be conceived and represented.

The call from November 2012 is here and our short paper is here.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Printing Mathematics in the Early Modern World

 I shall be making a presentation in Oxford on 16 or 17 December 2013 at a symposium on Printing Mathematics in the Early Modern World. Here's the abstract:
'If an idea bear any relation to quantity of any kind' - devising and printing historical time in the eighteenth century

The early eighteenth century saw the earliest 'mathematical' representations of historical time, particularly in France by Barbeau de la Bruyère (1710-1781) and Barbeu du Bourg (1709-1779), and in England by Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), whose phrase is quoted in the title.
      The significance for mathematics lies in the model of chronology employed, derived from the concepts of number and of time advocated by Descartes and Newton. Previous representations offered by Eusebius and Scaliger, among many others, had sought to capture the entire chronology of the world, but only as lists or tables: history as an accretion of events. Now such events were conceived in a quasi-spatial, measurable continuum, and presented as such graphically.
      The significance relative to printing lies in the techniques for these early 'data visualisations', a shift from letterpress to engraving in a truly spatial layout enabling patterns, clusters, outliers and lacunae to be shown for the first time. Anticipating later practice in quantitative visualisation, metaphorical, pictorial conceits began to be stripped away, but metaphor of course was never completely absent, and the paper will highlight the contribution of mapmaking as both metaphor and technique.
      Questions arising include the affordability of paper, concern with imprecision and error, tension between rhetorical and mechanical approaches to knowledge, and the issue of orientation: if time is mapped to rectilinear space, which axis should represent time? In a recent publication, Stephen showed that for Barbeu du Bourg and Priestley - and as far back as Oresme (c.1320-1382) - this issue of orientation troubled graphical inventors.
 It is at All Souls College. Here is a version of the call for papers.

Provisional programme, added 29 September 2013 
Authors and readers
  • Richard J. Oosterhoff, Notre Dame: "Printing Proofs in Paris c. 1500: Communal Authorship, the Typography of Enunciations, and the Point of Demonstration".
  • Leo Rogers, Oxford: “Printing Mathematical Texts in England in the 16th Century”.
  • Katherine Hunt, Birkbeck: tba.
  • Dagmar Mrozik, Wuppertal: "Mathematical authorship and its display in the Society of Jesus: Between individual and Jesuit".
  • Gregg De Young, The American University in Cairo: "Early printing of mathematics in Arabic".
Collections and collectors
  • Renae Satterley, the Middle Temple Library: "Robert Ashley (1565–1641): collecting and using mathematical books at the Middle Temple"
  • Tabitha Tuckett, London: tba.
  • Renzo Baldasso, Arizona: "The Technical Dimension of Early Printed Mathematical Diagrams, 1474–1482".
  • Stephen Boyd Davis, Royal College of Art: "'If an idea bear any relation to quantity of any kind' - devising and printing historical time in the eighteenth century".     
  • Matthew Eddy, Durham: "Appropriation or Invention? Chemistry, Ratios and the Visual Anthropology of Matter".
Space and aesthetics
  • Robin Rider, Wisconsin: "The power of negative space: 18th-century French mathematics in print".
  • Travis Williams, Rhode Island: "Managing Notational White in Early Modern Printed Mathematics".
  • Alex Marr, Cambridge: "The Aesthetics of Early-Modern Printed Mathematical Instruments".
Error and correction
  • David Bellhouse, Western Ontario: "Errors in mathematical tables".
  • Richard Kremer, Dartmouth: "On Printing 'Meaningless' Numbers, or Controlling Errors in Incunable Astronomical Tables".
  • Benjamin Wardhaugh, Oxford: "Error and its handling in Georgian mathematics books".