Timescape and Memory

Visualizing Big Data at the 9/11 Memorial Museum

Authored by: Lauren F. Klein

The Routledge Companion to Media Studies and Digital Humanities

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138844308
eBook ISBN: 9781315730479
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter positions Timescape (Local Projects, 2014), a large-scale data visualization installed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum, as evidence of how humanistic inquiry must stand alongside data visualization and other computational practices if we are to most fully address the complexity of twenty-first-century daily life. I demonstrate how Timescape, and all data visualizations, must be analyzed on three levels: (1) at the level of the data-image, (2) at the level of data-processing, and (3) at the level of the dataset itself. By analyzing Timescape according to this scheme, I show how the piece must be interpreted so as to better understand the assumptions and arguments embedded in its design. I claim that the knowledge produced by data visualization is always partial, and that no quantity of data, however large, and however it might be visualized, can be made to represent the global impact of 9/11 in a single view. I conclude that Timescape, as a result of its relation to 9/11 as a media event, does not merely produce knowledge in the particular terms that its algorithms identify and visualize; it also represents the larger process of knowledge production itself.

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