In Common List

In Common this week: (Re)envisioning the Data

Hi folks,

I’m an English student, so it’s not surprising that most of the time I’m reading texts. I love texts. For the past few months I’ve been visiting museums and archives to reads nineteenth-century sailor’s journals as part of my dissertation research. Recently, I came across a journal with vividly painted watercolors, fragments of (poorly written) original love poetry, and collages of articles from periodicals. It is a text, for sure. But it’s not a straightforward narrative and requires a different sort of reading that I would do of a more conventional textual narrative.

So it’s with questions about how works can be read in new ways on my mind that I call attention this week to two recent posts on the Commons about visualizing unique data sets.

  • Jacob Cohen posts to his Commons site on Affective Music Theory and Exploration about “Phishmaps,” visual schematics of songs created by Mike Hamad of the Hartford Courant. The maps chart what Hamad is hearing as he listens to the song and, fascinatingly, they are to scale. So if you look at the maps in the middle, you’re looking at what Hamad is hearing at roughly the midway point in the song. It’s a remarkable (and low-tech) way to “see” sound and Cohen’s gallery well curated. The site is a companion to a poster presentation for a poster Cohen presented at the 2017 Society for American Music conference.
  • Beyond the Vale: Visualizing Slave Life in Craven County is a project by a CUNY Graduate Center student inspired by the student’s own discovered history. Filling in information on slavery on North Carolina, which is underrepresented in the literature, the project aims to make the local history of slavery, in one small county, visible. There are charts and graphs, each made with Google sheets which show how even with simple, freely available tools, important scholarly work can be done to reinterpret and re-envision the historical archive.

Well that’s it for this week.

All the best,


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