‘What Data Visualization Reveals’

‘What Data Visualization Reveals: Elizabeth Palmer Peabody and the Work of Knowledge Production’. Professor Lauren Klein (Emory, author of Data Feminism), Thursday 13th May, 7.30pm. Click here to join talk.

Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies and the Bloomsbury research Lecture series are delighted to welcome Professor Lauren Klein for an online talk on Data Visualization.

Data visualization is not a recent innovation. Even in the nineteenth century, economists and educators, as well as artists and illustrators, were fully aware of the inherent subjectivity of visual perception, the culturally-situated position of the viewer, and the power of images in general—and of visualization in particular—to convey arguments and ideas. In this talk, I examine the history of data visualization in relation to feminist theory, which has also long attended to the subjective nature of knowledge and its transmission. Exploring the visualization work of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody (1804-1894), I show how we might recover her contributions to the development of modern data visualization techniques. I contend, moreover, that by conceiving of data visualization as a feminist method, we might better understand its function—in the nineteenth century as today—as a way to present concepts, advance arguments and perform critique. My evidence for this second claim is both theoretical and applied; by reimagining Peabody’s charts for the web, and by explaining how the affordances of HTML, JavaScript, and other web technologies enhance certain features while limiting others, I accentuate the original arguments of the charts’ designs. This talk thus describes a digital humanities project and a nineteenth-century one, and among its conclusions is that, when engaging in information work—and especially work involving visualization—the nineteenth century is never far from view.

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