Visualizing Cultural Data: Experimental Interfaces for Digitized Collections

Interactive visualization offers humanities and art scholars novel perspectives on our cultural heritage. In this webinar I will introduce a few basic concepts and prototypes, offering macro views on large inventories, exploratory navigation along connected artifacts, and dynamic filtering of visual collections.

In recent years, numerous projects have been initiated and funded that seek to digitize cultural collections. Archives, museums, libraries and other collecting institutions are now facing the challenge to improve the accessibility of their digitized inventories while also providing new modes of engagement with the cultural artifacts. Digital representation is increasingly seen as a unique perspective on culture that implies a value of its own. While the digital is not set out to replace the physical, it is distinct and has its own advantages. As visualization technology is increasingly applied to cultural collections, we see a multitude of opportunities arise for the mediation of culture.

As part of the VIKUS project an interdisciplinary team of cultural scholars, interface designers, and software engineers led by Prof. Dörk is investigating novel interfaces to cultural collections. The aim is to reveal the richness and complexity of such 'data' and do justice to their historical significance. This project approaches digital cultural heritage by combining technological possibilities with cultural considerations to develop visualizations and interfaces that open up interesting and useful perspectives on collections. Thereby, novel representation and interaction techniques are designed and evaluated for their suitability for different scenarios. We proceed on the comprehension that visualizations themselves are to be regarded as cultural artifacts that need to be interpreted, designed, and criticized.


Marian Dörk is a research professor for information visualization at the Institute for Urban Futures of the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. In the context of his doctoral studies at University of Calgary and his postdoctorate at Newcastle University he designed and studied novel visualization techniques in particular with regard to their potential for exploratory information practices. Since Fall 2014 he leads a 3-year research project on visualizing cultural collections and since January 2015 he has been co-directing the Urban Complexity Lab, a newly founded research space at the intersection between information visualization and urban transformation.