In order to quickly familiarize myself with Mathematica I decided to audit a graduate course dedicated to Digital Research Methods. Following six weeks of classes, which have been very rewarding and equaling frustrating, I feel a lot more comfortable in terms of adapting the models used in class to fit my own research needs and interest. I no longer get an error message after every code I write on my own which in turn has drastically decreased the amount of times I feel like throwing my computer against the wall. Now that I think of it, I could probably plot the relationship between error messages and computer violence quite easily now. I am moving up in the digi-history world!
As I clumsily navigated through Mathematica this past week I came across the TimelinePlot function. I then challenged myself to visualize the Grateful Dead discography on a timeline. I stuck to the Dead’s 13 studio albums and decided to ignore their numerous live compilations and the seemingly endless Dick’s Picks series. My goal was to get my timeline to resemble Brett Champion’s visualization of the Star Trek release dates.
Grateful Dead Timelines is a .PDF of my notebook to see the process I used/my specific codes. I have not figured out how to upload the actual notebook file in WordPress, it appears to not be a valid format. Here’s what I came up with:
Although I am pretty happy with this result, there are a number of improvements I would like to make I am just unsure how to do so:
- Spacing. I would prefer if each album entry was not overlapping other entries.
- Tooltips. Currently the tooltips simply list the full date of each album. Eventually I would like a track listing to appear when the user scrolls over each album cover.
- Aesthetics. The timeline looks a little drab. In an ideal world I would have either a dancing bears or dancing terrapins watermark in the background and traditional acid trip colour schemes but one can only dream at this point.
- Code. If you download Grateful Dead Timelines you will see that my code is rather messy. I feel like I had to do a lot more work than necessary. For example, I manually inputted every album cover into the code which took some time and makes Mathematica run incredibly slowly afterwards.
I also made another timeline in a different style. Still not sure which one I prefer.
I have many of the same complaints about this graphic as the previous one. However, I do like that the timeline itself is not as crowded. That being said, the legend would look tidier if the entries were aligned. Also, if I could use this style but have the tooltips display the album artwork and track listings the overall presentation would be much sharper since the clumsy legend would be unnecessary.
Even though both of these timelines do not relate to my research, I hope the skills I learned can be adapted to spirit photography somehow. Maybe I can plot the most famous spirit photographs in a similar style or the lifespans of psychical researchers. Nevertheless, I think these two preliminary efforts would make Jerry proud. This little project was also a coping mechanism for my intense frustration at not being able to attend the Dead and Company reunion shows at Madison Square Garden at the end of October.
Alas, “I will get by…I will survive.”