RESOURCE: New Forms of History: Critiquing Data and Its Representations

The February 2016 issue of The American Historian features an article by Frederick W. Gibbs (University of New Mexico), “New Forms of History: Critiquing Data and Its Representations.” In it, Gibbs argues for a critical analysis of data visualizations that comes from beyond the boundaries of the digital humanities:

Many of the visualizations briefly mentioned thus far (topic models, network diagrams, GIS maps) may seem like the domain of those working in the digital humanities and can therefore seem irrelevant to those uninterested in taking up such methods. But I want to emphasize that data criticism, which includes both critical analysis of data and its representations, is not a digital history problem; it is a history problem. And it is one that we must take seriously if we want to continue to be effective evaluators of our colleagues’ work.

Still, we must require methodological transparency of their creation so that we can more deeply engage with the many layers of meaning embedded into the visualization and what its creator claims it represents. A stronger discourse around visualizations can help creators in the same way that textual review and critique does now.

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