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Visualizing Space-Time Narratives

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I am working on a printed historical atlas, and many of the topics are really space-time narratives: a string of events for which the what, where, and when are all important. Further, they are often a complex web of interrelated space-time narratives (that could be a definition of historical geography, eh?). I am looking for good ways to help readers (non-historians and non-geographers) make sense of this complexity, preferably through visual means (it is an atlas after all). However, after trying several design mixes maps, timelines, and text, I haven't found a solution I'm really satisfied with yet. I have a stack of good-looking historical atlases in my office, but they don't seem to do a good job of addressing this issue. It's an obvious (and very common) application for interactivity, but for now, it has to be print. I suppose you could say that I'm trying to get some of that interactive feel into print.

Does anyone know of any really good examples out there of visualizing spatial narratives? Before you mention Mike and Margaret's Champlaign map, let me say that it was an inspiration, and very effective at giving a feel for the spatialness of the narrative, but I'm looking for something more functional--getting the facts across. Also, there was a map of the decline of the Ottoman Empire posted here last year that I liked, which may provide some help.




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I am interested in maps about history (as well as historical maps! :) ), but most of my knowledge of the subject comes from informal perusal of atlases and books about history. I don't recall coming across anything comparable to Mike and Margaret's excellent map. Multiple maps, showing the same extent over time, or the same general area with changes in extent as warranted by expansion or contraction of the map's theme are common. As are single maps where symbology varies according to time. Or battle maps where changes in position of troops are often shown with arrows to show movement from one position to another.

I think this is a field ripe for innovation. I would probably take a look at some other fields that deal with graphic narratives that vary over space and time - for example, comics and graphic novels. Those have a rich tradition of how to convey such information simply and effectively. Books by people like Will Eisner (Comics and Sequential Art, and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative) and Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, and Making Comics might be good places to start.

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Hi there, Kinesava.

I've been lurking here for the last week or so trying to find some inspiration for a similar project and was hoping to revive this great thread and see if you've gotten anywhere in your pursuit of visualizing the spatio-temporal narrative.

I'm working on an atlas/gazeteer that will be a part of a printed volume dealing with settlement patterns over time at an archaeological site in southern Italy (Prehistory to Late Medieval, with emphasis/finer-grained temporal detail on the Greek occupation). This is pretty large landscape, dotted with farm houses, cemeteries, sanctuaries, industrial buildings, drainage canals, roads, etc, etc, and the publication presents results of about 30 years of archaeological survey, excavation, artifact study, and paleo-environmental research. All of this is obviously very spatial and very temporal, and the maps will be a huge part of telling the story, but making the temporal part sing in static form is seriously challenging. One thing I'm trying to work out is a clear way of showing transitions (e.g. a map with sites that have gone out of use together with new sites).

Anyway, I'd love to hear about any further thoughts you or anyone else out there may have on some satisfying ways to deal with space-time narratives in static maps.

One source for you to check out, in case you haven't already, is the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. It's considered the Gold Standard in the field of Classics.

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