Visualizing the Discography of the Grateful Dead

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:

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.58.38 AM

Grateful Dead Studio Album Discography. In Mathematica a tooltip listing the album release date appears when you scroll over each album.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 10.53.44 AM

Grateful Dead Studio Album Discography 2. Similar to the first timeline, scrolling over each line plot yields a tooltip with the album release date. The album artwork is displayed to the side rather than imbedded in the graphic itself.

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.”

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Welcome Back My Friends to the Show that Never Ends

Welcome fearless interweb adventurers.

The main purpose of this blog is to document my current research project: a historical analysis of spirit photography and psychical research during the interwar period. I rather foolishly decided that I would also incorporate several digital history techniques into my work. As a result, I will also be posting my squabbles, frustrations, and successes (hopefully…) with Mathematica and other programs, all of which test my patience on the daily.

I must admit, I started this blog as an organizational tool for myself (a pathological scatterbrain). I figured this platform would force me to write about my project and keep me on some sort of schedule. While I am more than happy to entertain any readers, please be advised that you may experience the gradual breakdown of a lowly undergrad who is clearly in over his head.

Although I will mostly be posting about spirit photography and digital history computations, some of my other interests may creep into the odd post. So: Deadheads, Ledheads, X-Philes,  Moonstompers, Swomee-Swans, Bar-ba-loots, Zooks, Yooks, and Tolkiendili…there is bound to be something here for you!

While this blog may not be “guaranteed to blow your head apart”, much to the chagrin of Greg Lake and Karn Evil 9, I will try my best.

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