Saturday, 25 February 2012

On Friday 9th March 2012 I shall be talking about timelines at the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon (France) as a guest of the Centre de Recherches Texte / Image / Langage.

It is part of a series on Scientific Illustration organised by Marie-Odile Bernez.

The talk is entitled ‘The Eye of History: pioneering depictions of historical time’. I shall be discussing timelines as a paradigm of the cultural shift to the visual during the eighteenth century, tracing the envy that Chronologists felt for Geography (with all its seductive and memorable visual aids), the excitement about concepts of the mechanical and of uniformity, and the mathematisation of space (in which Descartes and Newton were key figures).

Much of the material deals with French pioneering work in Chronography – not just because I am in France, but because the French really do seem to have been the first to set out time in a graphical, spatialised way and to begin to theorise its advantages.

While I am there, I shall also go to the City Library of Dijon...
...because by happy chance it is one of the two places in France that has a copy of the Explication Générale de la Mappemonde Historique by J. L. Barbeau de La Bruyère. More on that when I have seen it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

PhD studentship - Develop sophisticated digital timelines of cultural data within an academic-industrial partnership

I have funding to support a PhD student to work on state-of-the-art timelines...

A PhD studentship is available at the Royal College of Art in London, funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The funding includes the fees and a living allowance. This is a collaboration with industry, based at System Simulation, a research-led software engineering company in central London with a distinguished record of working with museums and other cultural organisations. The studentship provides a strong base on which to develop an industrial or academic career.

The aim of the research is to reveal new knowledge by visualising diverse large datasets in rich interactive timelines, other chronographic formats and related graphical displays. Our principal aim will be public understanding of historical and other data - making complex patterns visible to the lay viewer at a glance - though the visualisation tools will be adaptable to advanced use by researchers, curators, historians, and others.

The right applicant will have a strong desire to combine in-depth study and practical development. Their experience will include the design and development of interactive software. A software engineer may be the ideal candidate, but others with significant development experience are welcome to apply. They will be enthusiastic (and preferably knowledgeable) about visualisation and visual analytics, and have some understanding of working with large datasets. They will be committed to evaluation as well as making, since it is essential that the products of the research are usable and likeable as well as functioning to a high technical standard. See the documents online for further details.
            (scroll down to "EPSRC-funded PhD Studentship")

Closing date 28 February 2012.  Studentship to begin as soon as possible after 23 April 2012.

To discuss academic / industrial aspects of the studentship, email

To discuss administrative / financial aspects, email

An indication of past work by the academic director of this research can be seen here:

You may also be interested in other funded research opportunities listed at the same URL, including The AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hub: Innovation and Knowledge Exchange in Digital Public Space.

Friday, 3 February 2012

A historical timeline of financial rise and fall

Tobias Revell is a second-year student on the MA Design Interactions programme at the Royal College of Art (to which I moved in November 2011 since my last post to this blog).

At the recent Work in Progress exhibition, he showed a big timeline representing the vicissitudes of the world financial system from 50 to 2160 AD.
Tobias says about it
In its earliest forms, this was an exercise for myself and the studio audience in understanding the precedents and patterns of how power and finance have interacted throughout history and also as a way to show my research beyond scribbled notes. The idea being that I would then build smaller works off this context. However, I found that it came to be a piece of work in itself, a product of the research that went into it. It's also fulfilled its purpose of inspiring debate perfectly - I spent almost the whole private view talking to people about it with objections, opinions and questions of their own (in particular the assumption that as an artist/designer I was out of place in condoning rampant capitalism, something which I'm not doing nor was trying to show.)
I think that showing the research I'd done in such a graphical and open way allowed people to engage with the subject matter straight away without having to try and get to grips with curious new forms.
Timeline (detail). Tobias Revell 2012. Reproduced with permission.
Go to Tobias's blog.