Rongqian Ma: Week 2 – Visualizing complexities of places/locations in the manuscript data

During week 2 I started working with data that demonstrates the geolocation where the manuscripts were produced and used. Something I didn’t quite realize before I delved deep into the data is that they are not simply names of places, but geo-information represented in different formats and with different connotations. The variety of the geo-location data exists in the following aspects: a) missing data (i.e., N/A), b) different units presented in regions, nation-states, and cities, respectively; c) suspicious information (i.e., “?”) indicated in the original manuscripts, d) change of geographies over different historical periods, so being hard to visualize the inconsistency of geographies over time; e) single vs. multiple locations represented in one data entry. Facing this situation, I spent some time cleaning and reformatting data as well as thinking about strategies to visualize this part of the data. I merged all the city information with country/nation-states information and also conducted some search for old geographies such as Flanders (and found its complexities…). The geographies also transit during times, which is hard to present in one single visual. I created a pie chart that shows the proliferation and popularity of the book of hours in certain areas, and multiple bar charts showing the merged categories (e.g., city information, different sections of Flanders area). I also found a map of Europe during the middle ages (time period represented in the dataset) and add other information (e.g., percentage) to the map, which I think may be a more straightforward way to communicate the geographical distribution of the book of hours productions. As the geographical data are necessarily related to the temporal data and other data categories regarding the content and decorations of the manuscripts, for the next step I’m aiming to create more interactive visualizations that can connect different categories of the dataset. I’m excited to work with such complexities of the manuscripts data, which also reminded me of a relatively similar case I encountered before about Chinese manuscripts, where the date information was represented in various formats, especially in a combination of the old Chinese style and the western calendar style. Standardization might not always be a good way to communicate the ideas behind the data and to visualize the complexity is a challenge.

1 thought on “Rongqian Ma: Week 2 – Visualizing complexities of places/locations in the manuscript data”

  1. Rongquian, it was interesting how you mentioned that map data changes over time. I have come across this when doing genealogy research. In one census, my ancestors lived in Hungary, and in the next one they lived in Austria, but it was really the same place. I’ve seen some really cool maps online that have a sliding bar that makes the maps change over time. I’m wondering what tools they use to do that!

    I would also imagine that your task is further complicated by the different languages used on maps.

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