Temporal Topologies: Inflecting the telling and the told of historical narratives

panel / roundtable
  1. 1. Johanna Drucker

    University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

  2. 2. Marian Dörk

    Fachhochschule Potsdam (FHP / University of Applied Sciences Potsdam)

  3. 3. Francesca Morini

    Fachhochschule Potsdam, Germany; Södertörn University, Södertörn, Sweden

  4. 4. Nathaniel LaCelle-Peterson

    Max Planck Institute for the History of Science / Institution Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte

  5. 5. Jonas Rinderlin

    Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany

  6. 6. Elton Barker

    Open University

  7. 7. Christoph Rosol

    Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany

  8. 8. Dirk Wintergruen

    Max Planck Institute for the History of Science / Institution Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte

Work text
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The challenge of creating interactive graphical expressions for the representation of temporality in humanistic documents has spawned multiple digital humanities projects over the last decades (e.g., Temporal Modeling Project, PeriodO, Narrelations). These are premised on a distinction between positivistic temporal models that take time references as givens and those that understand temporal objects as discursive representations. The Temporal Topologies collaboration supports humanistic, hermeneutic approaches to temporality and chronology by creating graphical tools to create, display, analyze, and interpret temporal models while also using narratological frameworks of analysis. The project includes design of a pipeline that transforms semantically enriched HTML markup into JSON to generate graphic display, and a prototype for direct editing and argument production. Temporal models are the core case studies in this panel, but the larger research goal is to make it possible to attach arguments to specific data elements through a dynamic interface. We use the concept of “inflection” to indicate alterations of a display coupled with the underlying data. Rather than existing interaction techniques provided for data visualization (such as filtering elements or toggling layers), inflections are discursive interactions that are meant to be saved, shared, and shown. To realize this vision, interpretative capabilities need to be baked into the stack, from the visual interface to the data storage and back. The test bed for Temporal Topologies is the Anthropocene Curriculum of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) in conversation with connected initiatives at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Urban Complexity Lab, FH Potsdam (UCLAB/FHP), and The Open University (OU).

Johanna Drucker and Marian Dörk: Overview and the concept of “inflection”
This presentation describes the context for the Temporal Topologies project. We explain the rationale for an interactive interface linked to data that can support production of humanistic arguments about temporal phenomena and introduce the concept of “inflections” central to this endeavor. We propose the modification of the OWL Time ontology to accommodate discursive approaches to the representation of temporality. This paper frames the multiple facets of this work and the aim of provoking a conversation about its applicability to other projects in digital humanities. The panelists will focus on the conceptual development and technical design process for each component: markup, display, narratological approaches, date-specific Time Reference Systems, the relative temporal logic of James Allen, explicit and implicit temporality, varying time scales, and symbolic time schemes.

Christoph Rosol: Temporal Topologies in the Anthropocene Curriculum
“Every historical era is likewise multi-temporal, simultaneously drawing from the past, the contemporary, and the futuristic. … A circumstance is thus polychronic, multi-temporal, revealing a time that is gathered together, with multiple pleats.” For the late philosopher and science historian Michel Serres (historical) time was a topological space, a folded and pantopic model in which temporally very distant instances close ranks, while others, chronologically more proximal ones, are separated. In the Anthropocene, the crisis-laden geological epoch upon us dominated by the effects of human impact on the Earth system, we see not only human and Earth history folding into one another but a tight entanglement and interaction between multiple temporal scales, causes and effects, sinks and sources. The Anthropocene necessitates a reorientation of intellectual comprehension, especially with regard to temporal horizons and their critical interconnectedness. The Anthropocene Curriculum (AC) initiative by HKW and MPIWG is an ambitious, long-term attempt to generate and foster a topology of Anthropocene knowledge. A topology describes the world qualitatively. As a science of connections, relationships, and mutual interdependencies, this Anthropocene topology is drawn from vernacular studies and ground-based encounters that the global AC network has elaborated over the last years. With the Temporal Topologies project, meant not least as a tribute and proof-of-concept of the Serresian model of topological time, the AC is now engaged in the development of a novel visual model of the qualitative temporal data.

Jonas Rinderlin and Nathaniel LaCelle-Peterson: Data and date tagging in the Anthropocene Curriculum project
The Anthropocene Curriculum’s vast compilation of essays, reflections, field notes, geological data, and media materials makes it an ideal testing ground for new graphical tools for the creation, analysis, and comparison of temporal models. Making the temporal information contained in such a diverse corpus accessible as structured data that can be processed using computational methods comes with its own set of challenges. While existing ontological frameworks, like the Time Ontology in OWL, provide a sophisticated means to describe temporal properties, the positivist structure of their model is insufficient for humanistic inquiry. In the context of the AC the specific question that arises is how to adequately represent the imbrication of multiple time scales. Drawing on distinctions from narratology and previous work by Evelyn Gius (heureCLÉA), we identified a small but crucial set of enhancements to the Time Ontology in OWL that allow us to incorporate discursive aspects into our own approach. In making additions to OWL Time, we took the humanistic context, the collaborative process, and practical requirements into account: new information about the narration of time is structured alongside existing OWL categories, and open fields allow for more flexible project-level labeling practices.

Francesca Morini: Visualizing temporal relations within conflicting discourse
This presentation describes the design process developed to render visible the relationalities among temporal events within discourse, and to visualize interpretative work performed by researchers. This visualization is designed to support practitioners in making sense of similar yet temporally conflicting narratives, as well as in discussing and generating new inflections. Despite the various contributions at the intersection of literary studies, narratology and interface design, graphical representations of narratives seldom support interpretative interactivity with text. Scholars rely on a limited set of tasks, which do not alter the way the underlying data are structured or represented. Moreover, narratives are rarely compressed into meaningful overviews capable of enabling comparison and rendering temporal conflicts visible. In the context of the Anthropocene Curriculum project, we devised temporal signatures as graphical representations of narratives that render discursive and temporal relationality visible. These visualizations are designed to foster critical understanding of temporally conflicting narratives, through techniques that enable transitions, synoptic views, and comparison across scales and models. Additionally, through the cooperation with the Heterochronologies research at UCLA, we provide new ways of extending editing powers to contest narratives and temporal structures, while keeping a trace of such disputations.

Dirk Wintergruen: Modelling socio-epistemic networks

ModelSEN is a research project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It aims to find ways to describe and analyze the dynamics of knowledge systems by applying different graph and network theory models, including social network analysis and agent-based modelling. An essential part of this project is the integration of different knowledge bases through semantic modelling of data produced by different data providers. Of course, modelling temporality is a central part of creating an integrative model, not only for modelling the data input. Rather, it is about semantically encoding the results of different models that simulate the dynamics of knowledge systems to make them comparable. Furthermore, visualization techniques are necessary to communicate the results and make them comparable for a wider audience that is not used to interpreting numerical data. But also, to identify patterns that often only become visible when the data can be visualized and interactively manipulated.

Elton Barker: Exploring time and space in a non-modern narrative
This presentation tackles a particularly challenging example of temporal mapping — Pausanias’s first-century CE Periegesis Hellados (Description of Greece). A ten-book journey around Greece, the Periegesis is as much modelled on time as it is on space, as Pausanias records stories about the locations, buildings and objects through which he moves. Mapping the dynamic relationship between space and time (chronotope: Bakhtin 1981) presents a significant challenge to digital visualisation, especially in texts that are also about time, where temporal representations sometimes align with narrative time (chronological sequence) and sometimes do not (Ricoeur 1984). The challenge is all the greater in a non-modern author like Pausanias, for whom canonical dating (e.g. “490 BCE”, “2021 CE”: Feeney 2007) or periodizations (e.g., “archaic”, “classical”, etc.) risk misrepresenting the chronotopic dimension of his journey. Here I discuss the

Digital Periegesis
 project, which is using the semantic annotation tool 
Recogito to encode place and time in Pausanias. As well as outlining our annotation practice, I discuss the different mechanisms by which time is described by proxies (people and events) and efforts to map them to global authorities (such as
 PeriodO or Wikidata). I also consider the potential affordances of annotating place and time for humanities Linked Open Data, as well as reflect on the design challenges for conducting temporal-spatial analysis within this ecosystem (using the visualization tool 
Peripleo). I conclude with some reflections on how the work on the Anthropocene Curriculum can contribute to visualizing narrative temporality in a narrative as complex as Pausanias’s.

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Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2022
"Responding to Asian Diversity"

Tokyo, Japan

July 25, 2022 - July 29, 2022

361 works by 945 authors indexed

Held in Tokyo and remote (hybrid) on account of COVID-19

Conference website: https://dh2022.adho.org/

Contributors: Scott B. Weingart, James Cummings

Series: ADHO (16)

Organizers: ADHO