Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A history of an encyclopaedia

As Florian Kräutli, PhD student at the Royal College of Art, says, ‘Wikipedia is not only an encyclopaedia, but also a history of an encyclopaedia.’


Florian is presenting work including his temporal visualisations of Wikipedia article histories on 1st February 2015 at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. The event forms part of the CTM festival and transmediale and is open to the public.

See the item on Florian’s blog.



Thursday, 15 January 2015

Slides and audio of talk for The National Archives

The National Archives have very kindly put the slides and audio of my talk in their Big Ideas series on the web.


It is a visually-led talk, so please view the slides while listening.

Link: http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/big-ideas/

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Leap second: good, bad and indifferent

An extra ‘leap’ second will be added to the hour at the middle of 2015. I enjoyed the different headlines...

One of the first to appear on Google News was Radio Australia with a neutral tone to its headline and introduction:

For the UK Telegraph headline writer it was a typically dastardly plot by the French to interfere with the natural order of things:

CNN International seemed to like the idea, calling it a ‘bonus sliver of time’:

But the reporter at 3News NZ seemed to have got out of the wrong side of bed:

Science Recorder implied that it is not human measures of time that will be adjusted but our planet itself...

The UK tabloids’ taste for SHOUTING seemed particularly unnecessary here. What would they have done if it had been a MINUTE or an HOUR?

The UK Independent these days imitates the Daily Express’s ‘we are all doomed’ stance on any story. Remember all those planes that fell out of the sky at the Millennium?

And the Grimsby Telegraph was not going to be outdone if there was some gloom to be had out of the story...

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Talk at the Antiquarian Horological Society

I will be giving a talk ‘Almost at a Single Glance’ – Visualisation of Historic Time in the Eighteenth Century as part of the Antiquarian Horological Society’s London Lectures series on Thursday 22 January 2015.
Barbeau de la Bruyere. 1750. Mappemonde Historique. Detail. Collection: Bibliothèque municipale. Dijon (Fonds Ancien). Photo : Stephen Boyd Davis. Collection: Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon (12990).
I will be looking at the increasing influence of metaphors of the machine, and at mechanical approaches to knowledge, on the information design of chronographics - charts of history.

Joseph Priestley, pioneer of chronographics, wrote in 1780 of his way of organising biblical history, ‘I venture to say that, by the help of such a mechanical contrivance as this, a person of a very moderate capacity, or critical skill, will have an advantage over a person of the greatest genius and comprehension of mind without it.’ Unfortunately, Jonathan Swift had written, entirely sarcastically, in 1726 about Gulliver’s encounter with a professor who possessed a machine with which ‘the most ignorant person at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, may write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, law, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.’

I am hoping that the expertise of my audience in the history of actual time machines - clocks and related machines - will make up for my ignorance in that area.

The 2015 AHS London Lecture Series is supported by the kind sponsorship of Carter Marsh & Co. Guests are welcome. In order to reserve places, non-AHS members are kindly requested to email ahs.londonlectures@gmail.com in advance.

Priestley, J. (1780). A Harmony of the Evangelists in English.
Swift, J. (1726). Gulliver’s Travels. Part III, Ch. 5.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Talking to The National Archives

To The National Archives in the rain, to give a talk on The Shape of Time for their in-house Big Ideas series. It's where Sam Cottrell has recently started his AHRC studentship.

A very good and responsive audience, with interesting questions too. My thanks to Valerie Johnson, Head of Research, for being such a kind host and to Victoria Lain for looking after me there.

I tried to connect things like this metaphorical / topographic map of history by Martignoni...
Girolamo Andrea Martignoni. 1718. Imago Romani Imperii. Detail. From Europeana.
... to innovative digital practice such as that of Florian Kräutli, now embarking on the third year of his PhD...
Florian Kräutli. 2013. Double timeline of composition (top) and first performance (bottom) of works by Benjamin Britten. For the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

New PhD student in chronographics

A new PhD student has started this week with me at the Royal College of Art, working on timewise visualisation and building on the pioneering work of Florian Kräutli. He is Sam Cottrell.  Before coming to the RCA he was Application Engineer at InfoAsset, and then Product Manager at Interica, managing software development, initiating new products and championing the needs of the user.
Sam at the top of High Wheeldon (a conical hill in the UK Peak District)
Sam's previous education was in geology at Royal Holloway University of London, where he took both his bachelor's and master's degrees. The research at the RCA is a collaboration with The National Archives, where Sam's supervisor is Dr Sonia Ranade. His research complements the AHRC-funded Big Data project Traces through Time led by The National Archives in partnership with the Institute of Historical Research, King's College London, Brighton University and the University of Leiden, which aims 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.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Bolivia turns back the clock in bid to rediscover identity and 'southernness'

Foreign minister says the horological initiative is intended to help people find their indigenous roots

From Sam Jones and Sara Shahriari in La Paz, the Guardian, Wednesday 25 June 2014 18.09 BST

In the latest – and by far the most literal – sign that times are changing in Bolivia, the numerals on the clock that adorns the congress building in La Paz have been reversed and the hands set to run anticlockwise in proud affirmation of the Andean nation's "southernness".

According to Bolivia's foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, the horological initiative is intended to help Bolivians rediscover their indigenous roots.

"We're in the south and, as we're trying to recover our identity, the Bolivian government is also recovering its sarawi, which means 'way' in Aymara," he said. "In keeping with our sarawi – or Nan, in Quechua – our clocks should turn to the left."

You can also buy 'left-handed' clocks in the UK (and I suppose anywhere else).