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

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mark Twain Autobiography visual navigation



November, 2010, the first of three volumes of Mark Twain's autobiography was released. The book, released on the centenary of Twain's death (per his request!), is published by the University of California Press in conjunction with the Bancroft Library at UC-Berkley. The book is presented online at http://www.thisismarktwain.com. Featured on the front page of the website is a two part navigational interface (pictured above) that allows uses to browse Twain's life using a conventional chronological schema and an interestingly different autobiographical schema.

The chronological tool (pictured below) enables users to browse 42 episodes featured in the book in chronological order. Each episode is marked by a image that appears above a timeline with the date of the episode. Clicking on the image yields additional information, and in some instances, video or audio of Twain scholars speaking on the topic.


The autobiography tool (pictured below) presents the same 42 episodes, but this time in the order these episodes appear in the autobiography. The same images as are used in the chronological tool appear, but this time in a circular shape floating across the screen from top to bottom. Users can navigate using controls on the top and the bottom of the frame and select an image to access the additional information.




I found the chronological tool to be much more intuitive and informative. Although the autobiographical tool is innovative, the edge that is gained through the differentness of the tool is more than lost by a lack of context. Images in the autobiographical tool appear on a line that zigs and zags across the screen in what appears to be a random order. No dates or other markers are provided to suggest a context for the presentational order of the images. Unlike the temporal connections in the chronological tool, there are no signs or markers on the autobiographical tool that suggest any relational context. Some images (i.e. episodes) are closer in proximity to images that precede or follow, but we do not know if that is an indication of relationship between the episodes. The interface does allow the user to move images on the screen, but there seems to be no logical reason for doing so. If the autobiographical tool is allowed to play, each image moves forward in relief as the full array of images slowly scrolls from top to bottom. This flow suggests a visual narrative that is different than the chronological narrative. I found this feature to be the most powerful. Comparative analysis of both animations might yield some interesting findings.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Followers

About Me

My photo

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 http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jklee/

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Map