American Legal History
I'm working on a timeline to show when events that have been discussed in class occurred in relation to each other. The main questions are probably what information to include and how it should be presented. My first instinct was to try to use a spreadsheet to display the information, with events categorized in columns, as such:

year England/Britain President U.S.
1603 James I    
1606     Formation of Massachusetts Bay Colony
1607     Formation of Virginia Colony
1609     Formation of New Netherland
1620     Formation of Plymouth Colony
1625 Charles I    

etc. However, it was pointed out that this would probably be an inefficient way to display information. I've been looking at other ways in which information is presented. One possibility I considered for a while was an Ishikawa diagram:


I thought it might be possible to modify the design, so as to have one main line of events and various other timelines leading into the main line. Without a specific final event for the timeline in mind, though, it seemed difficult to say that there could be a "main" timeline; I was also starting to think that the various offshoots would make this version of the timeline as confusing as the spreadsheet would be.

I've also been looking at Minard's Carte Figurative, which tracks the location and declining size of Napoleon's army during his Russian campaign, as well as the falling temperatures.


This made me think that there could perhaps be a locational element to a timeline, perhaps as relates to western expansion. I'm not sure how to incorporate that yet, though.

At the moment, I'm thinking that a timeline that mimics a sideways bar graph might be a good option. The possible advantage of this is that it would a good format for showing events that take place over an extended period of time. I think, if this format is used, events would still need to be categorized in some way, so as to avoid creating too many rows and making the timeline too physically broad to be of much use; I'm not sure of another way to try to resolve this concern.

-- KeikoHayakawa - 06 Nov 2009

This is my timeline as it currently stands:

I am working on pulling more events from my class notes (including events after 1800 which I'd like to include, of which there are many), but wanted to make sure that this particular format was working. I'm not sure I've thought the color scheme through sufficiently; for the most part, I tried to stay within the same color families for similar kinds of events (e.g. the formation of settlements, the ratification of legal documents), but I don't know if this is working to tie events together or if it is just confusing. I am also not sure about the vertical lines; I wanted to try to help particular events stand out that way, and also to help make clear what happened before and after those particular events. I also am pretty sure I need to change the size of the timeline, but am not sure how to do this. I can reduce the height of the document, but in terms of length I'm not sure that a timeline that effectively requires you to scroll through it is particularly useful.

Part of the idea for this particular setup comes from the attached table, which I found in Edward Tufte's Envisioning Information.

I thought the way in which the lines made a clear visual representation of how long certain things took was particularly effective in this chart. There are other tables from that book that were also helpful, which I'm hoping to upload later (I had a few resolution/size issues that I think can be resolved pretty easily).

-- KeikoHayakawa - 28 Nov 2009

Below are some the other tables from the Envisioning Information book that I thought were particularly interesting and that I've been trying to use to inform the way I set up my timeline. If anyone feels like these probably don't belong here and/or detract from the thought process, please let me know. The first is a train timetable that uses lines to demonstrate where the train will stop and when, which stops are being made, how fast the train is going, and when that particular train will run:

I really liked the use of the lines to show physically where the train ought to be at any given point in time.

This is a visual representation of debris in space:

I particularly liked that chart because, while I've been told that there's a lot of debris in space (and even given estimates on the number of junk objects floating around), for me it has been difficult to grasp the extent of the situation, and I think seeing what our planet's orbit may look like due to the debris has helped me.

This is a chart used by the defense in the Gotti trial to discredit witnesses by pointing out their prior convictions:

I think the chart is particularly effective because of the placement of the various convictions; as noted in the text, convictions that occured more frequently among the witnesses, regardless of severity, were placed at the center of the chart, where you might normally look first, meaning that you're hit with a load of black X marks when you first look at it. The use of black X marks seemed pretty effective to me as well; I think that's a symbol that's pretty commonly understood as a negative mark, so even without the line at the left explaining what the X marks stand for, it's pretty easily understood that these are things we're meant to think of as bad.

This is a list of medical expenses that have been annotated to include a narration of the patient's experience:

I thought about trying to include something like this in the timeline, because I thought it was a really compelling demonstration of how much is behind the numbers. I've sort of decided against this, because I think part of what I've been trying to do is see how much I can learn just from the physical placement of events within a representation of time, but I still thought this chart was really interesting.

Here is my current timeline:

I've been having some problems with spacing, particularly in the latter half of the 1800s; specifically, there are events that I wanted to represent using a vertical line that I had difficulty placing without creating a conflict with the line representing the change in presidents. I thought about resolving this by taking the president line out altogether, but I do think that line itself can be informative, so I've instead tried to fit things as well as I can. I suppose the entire thing could be lengthened, but it already seems long almost to the point of impracticality. A few of the things I've noticed while doing this that I thought were interesting (some of these may seem pretty obvious to others in the class, but they had never particularly struck me until now):

  • The regularity with which we elect presidents to a second term is something fairly new.
  • Sort of connected to that point, but the frequency with which leadership changed in the 1800s (due to both elections, assasinations, and other deaths in office) seemed to kind of fit with how unsteady the U.S. was during that century.
  • The negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase took about as long to complete as the Lewis and Clark expedition did.
  • I didn't realize fully how much legal work had gone into civil rights prior to the Plessy v. Ferguson decision.
  • I didn't realize fully how close in time (or probably I should say connected in time) Bleeding Kansas and the Civil War were.

-- KeikoHayakawa - 26 Dec 2009

My apologies; I caught an error in the color scheme of the version of the timeline that was uploaded on 12/31/09, but have been having difficulties trying to delete or replace the attachment. The actual "final" version is below.

-- KeikoHayakawa - 08 Jan 2010

  • I think this is an interesting project, which is showing its value in helping you, and probably other people who think graphically, to make connections that would otherwise be less accessible. It seems to me that the use of any kind of static rendering (like a PDF file) simply imports into the digital world the problems presented by the unchanging nature of printed paper. But with material designed to be presented on the web, the available modalities for dynamic interaction (zooming and rescaling for example) become very powerful. It should be possible for me to collapse and expand sections of the timeline, or indicate areas of interest by rolling over them, for example. Then the available rendering choices would expand profoundly. You might want to look around for dynamic timelines on the Web, and see how the JavaScript? implementation works.

  • I may not be the only person for whom a timeline is more intuitive if time increases to the right rather than to the left. So many graphical presentations assume Cartesian coordinate systems that a right-to-left presentation, while in no respect invalid, requires constant mental remapping, and thus increases cognitive resistance to the mode of visual thinking you're trying to stimulate.


Webs Webs

Attachments Attachments

  Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
pdf Convictions_Spreadsheet.pdf props, move 1216.3 K 26 Dec 2009 - 17:30 KeikoHayakawa Spreadsheet showing prior convictions of witnesses at trial.
pdf Medical_Expenses.pdf props, move 1640.0 K 26 Dec 2009 - 17:31 KeikoHayakawa Narration of experience of a medical patient as expenses accrue.
pdf Space_Debris.pdf props, move 874.0 K 26 Dec 2009 - 17:28 KeikoHayakawa Visualization of space debris.
pdf Train_Timetable.pdf props, move 1423.6 K 26 Dec 2009 - 17:26 KeikoHayakawa Train Timetable showing a lot of information in one place.
pdf Wagner_Operas.pdf props, move 431.2 K 28 Nov 2009 - 20:37 KeikoHayakawa Timelines showing development of Wagner's operas.
pdf timeline_4.pdf props, move 287.0 K 28 Nov 2009 - 20:23 KeikoHayakawa First draft of timeline in its current form.
pdf timeline_8-2.pdf props, move 764.1 K 26 Dec 2009 - 17:33 KeikoHayakawa Second draft of timeline in its current form.
pdf timeline_8-3.pdf props, move 1236.6 K 08 Jan 2010 - 18:01 KeikoHayakawa Previous "final" version including error.
pdf timeline_8-4.pdf props, move 1236.6 K 08 Jan 2010 - 18:05 KeikoHayakawa Actual final version of the timeline.
r10 - 07 Sep 2011 - 00:17:00 - IanSullivan
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