This blog presents visual information in pedagogical contexts; considering how information is presented in visual form and how we can learn from these presentations.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

City scents on display

A cheerful presentation by Jason Logan at the New York Times of an olfactory tour of Manhattan. Much is asked of the viewer in this visual presentation to conjure the smells of New York. But, through the use of creative language that is artfully arrayed in spatial form, we can quite easily imagine the "scents of the city."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Time Magazine visual graphics on historical topics

For the last six years, Time Magazine has presented graphical representations of information on their magazine website. With a current catalog of 180 graphics, the Time collection is an interesting study in the evolution of web graphics.

The earliest of these graphics titled, "The Shuttle's Triumph and Tragedy," is simply a five panel time line presentation, with each panel containing an image and chronologically arranged summary information about the Space Shuttle Columbia.

the next four graphics were focused on the War in Iraq, a trend in military content that has continued to this day.

This graphic from 2004 is also a time line, but is interestingly static. Although the information is arrayed nicely on the time line, the graphic lacks an interactivity, something we may now come to expect from online graphic.

This 2005 graphic on the Civil War military leadership in the Union Army featured an enhanced level of interactivity across four screens and within screens on roll-over effects and pop-up graphics.

Two Time graphics attempt to represent historical spaces in Monticello and Jamestown.

A more recent 2009 graphic on FDR's war-related actions is decidedly flat in terms of information array and intereactivity. Hopefully, this will not prove to be a new trend at Time.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

History paintings online: Visual presentation and reading the past

An amazing array of visual artistic content is available on the Web. in this post I look at online representations of Benjamin West's paintings, specifically his history paintings.

A good starting place is Wikimedia Common. This resource includes copyright and royalty free images. An entry on Benjamin West includes (as of this posting) 25 images of his work.

Included in the collection is West's famous 1781 unfinished painting "American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain." Wikimedia Commons also include a category titled History Painting with numerous additional paintings in the genre.

A Google Image search will also yield a nice array of images from a search on Benjamin West. A relatively new feature in Google Images also allows you to search for similar images. This may be helpful if you are trying to find an appropriately sized or shaped image or if you want variations on an image theme.

Here are four images that came up in a Google similar images search on this initial image

The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History from the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a wide range of essays with accompanying images on a wide range of art topics. An essay on Benjamin West titled Students of Benjamin West (1738–1820) explores the influence of West on American art.

Luna Commons is an online browser that provides access to thousands of art images. A search on Benjamin West yields 27 relevant images of paintings. What makes the resources so valuable are a collection of tools that enable users to export the images in a number of ways including as an embeddable widget (using iframes, unfortunately not supported by Blogger) as well as one click download of the images and export to Powerpoint (embedded using SlideShare below).

This graphic, published May 22, 2009 in the Wall Street Journal to accompany a story titled Changing the Art on the White House Walls, illustrates the history of art in the White House

For more on art, portraits, and presidents see my post of Capturing Presidential History.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran spy network

Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology - story here
From Wall Street Journal

Click Interactive Graphic

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Technology and openness in government

The Sunlight Foundation, support by among others Ebay founder recently published this visual describing the history of public access to federal governmnet information. The graphic uses an interested segmented time line, which can be disorienting on first exposure. The inclusion of text highlighting technological advances is a helpful secondary level of information that aids in contextualizing the primary content.

Monday, May 11, 2009

100 days press conference

Screenshot of new interactive feature from the New York Times of President Obama's 100 days news conference. This feature allows readers to search and browse the video and transcript. The inability to search and scan video text continues to limit, and this is step toward a more useful video system.

Online at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The White House attempts here to communicate a series of ideas with this visual, embedded in an iframe here.

The most detailed graphic, represented in the still to the right, is titled “Transforming Federal Building Into High-Performance Green Building. In the middle of this graphic is a representation of a “High Performance Green Building.” The graphic suggest a flow from left to right that involves money. This left to right action is, of course, a priority in English language reading. The stack of bills on the left is labeled a federal distribution. Readers must infer the nature of this distribution. Presumably, it is for “transforming federal buildings.” Such an inference emerges from the title of the graphic and the names associated with the items surrounding the stack of bills. The money on the left then flows into the building, but also flows out to 6 additional sources. These other 6 sources are a mix of specific projects such as U. S. Courthouses and more general expenditures such as “Space Rental.” Flowing out of the “High Performance Green Building” are three items. A deep reading is required in order to understand the relationship between the centerpiece building and the three items on the right. The relationship is ultimately mathematical. The items on the right sum up the 4,274M cost of the “High Performance Green Building.” Essentially, this graphic functions as a blow up of a single project in the overall distribution of funds for federal government environmental building renovations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Inside the Obama white House

Inside Obama's West Wing

"They say that proximity to power is power. And it comes to follow that the most coveted offices in Washington are those in the West Wing of the White House. Some, like press secretary Robert Gibbs's office, are spacious. Others are cubbyholes. But they are all in the same building as the president's Oval Office. Explore the interactive graphic below for an insider's guide to who's sitting where in President Obama's West Wing." (Printable West Wing Map)

By Laura Stanton, Nathaniel V. Kelso, Philip Rucker, Al Kamen and Karen Yourish - The Washington Post

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ring around NYC from National Geograpghic

Sharp and illustrative visual from National Geographic that illustrates in simple and stark terms the number of international phone calls by receiving location originating in New York City.
March 2009 NGM, online at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shifting the debate

An interesting resource that tracks You Tube videos according to the political prespective of referring websites.

online at

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bush years map

This graphic appeared in the January/February 2009 online edition of the Atlantic Monthly. The graphic accompanied a story titled Then and now by Timothy Lavin on how the United States has changed in the nine years since George W. Bush's election. The map does a nice job conjuring up the notion of the United States, by using the geographic shape of the U. S. to frame the data. Unfortunately, the positioning of information is unrelated to place. Also, I get a vague sense that the map wants to be a cartogram, but the only relational data presented is inside the individual frames and these are simply graphic illustrations.

There are a couple of, perhaps, coincidental geographic placements. A pig sits right around North Carolina and of course that state is know for is pig and hog farming and BBQ. There is a boat in Florida as well as a graphic illustrating growth in home ownership, appropriate given the housing boom in Florida. On the disturbing side is a graphic around New York illustrating yearly paper use that looks a lot like the World Trade Center Towers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Many eyes

One particualarly interesting tool for generating visualizations of text is Many Eyes from the IBM Visual Communication Lab at

This visualization presents differences in the House and Senate stimulus plans debated in Congress n February 2009.

Mall Malaise

A visual story from AP on the economic problems besetting American malls. This visual item features information on vacancy rates from 76 malls and a detailed analysis of stores in one mall in Minnesota.

Bailout Breakdown

A graphic from AP detailing how the initial 276 billion of the 700 billion dollar finnacial plan.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January

Accompanying an front page web article on job losses in January titled Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January was this flash graphic.

Monday, January 26, 2009

How the Government Dealt With Past Recessions

In this visual time line, three scholars narrate how the U. S. government responded to periods of economic crisis.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Words

The New York Times published this visual display of the words spoken by presidents in their inaugural addresses - online at


About Me

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John Lee is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. His scholarship is focused on pedagogies of digital history. This work includes the design and implementation of online resources that extend the boundaries of history through online networks and the digitization of historical source material. In addition to this focus on digital history, John is also interested in the historical literacies needed to negotiate online historical resources and visual representations of historical information. For more please see

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