Networks, maps, and time: Visualizing historical networks using palladio


Many tools can produce maps, graphs, and charts that may differ in seemingly minor ways. Data visualization tools are one type of “middleware” that can be all but forgotten when one is presented with final products such as papers and presentations containing visualizations [Drucker and Svensson 2016]. Since the output of various software packages is sometimes similar, it is easy to forget the assumptions that went into the diagram, the dataset, and the software when looking at the final product — or even while using the tool if one becomes sufficiently accustomed to the interface. In this review, I revisit the visualization suite Palladio – which Miriam Posner has called a “Swiss Army knife for humanities data” [Posner 2014] – and the many projects that have made use of Palladio’s core features in the years since its launch. I examine the strengths and limitations of Palladio, as a network and map-making tool for exploring data and for rapidly prototyping diagrams, designed with an iterative process in mind. I contrast this iterative mentality with the analytic sensibility of tools like Gephi and Cytoscape, and review the primary features of Palladio with one primary case study (my own visualizations of the French Enlightenment network) and examples of how the features have been used in other digital humanities projects. Palladio is very useful for qualitative studies of data that include geospatial and chronological dimensions, especially when the data are tagged with different types of qualitative metadata, but it also tends to impose a historical geographical view on the data by foregrounding geospatial relationships, time, and other historical considerations.

Publication Title

Digital Humanities Quarterly

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