Writing Rights visualises the evolution of ideas that inform the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It provides an opportunity for collaboration between humanities and design in order to better understand the role of visualisation in humanistic inquiry. Part of this collaboration involves developing a critical understanding of visual knowledge production and how digital technologies facilitate this.
Throughout this project visualisation is used to capture the complex, contingent and improvised nature of the Declaration’s formation. Visualisation is positioned as both a method of inquiry – thinking through making – and as a form of argumentation and dissemination. Here, design becomes “an intellectual method…used to pose and frame questions about knowledge” (Burdick, et. al., 2012), as well as offering ways of interpreting and representing findings.
By mapping the iterative process of the Declaration through visualisation, the interpretive nature of textual production is made known. The patterns, rhythms, repetitions, and silences are revealed as the text is transformed into forms of visual notation. Notation creates an abstract composition recasting text as a new form of data enabling alternate ways of reading the movement of ideas over time. Therefore, the visualisation serves not as an itinerary of events but rather a choreographic score that records human interactions, dependencies and exchanges, and like a musical score offers itself up to be reinterpreted by each reader.
Visualisation is increasingly prevalent in many fields of research yet if it is to play a significant role in the humanities it must reveal the “interpretive sensibilities of theoretical inquiry.” (Drucker, 2010) It is this complimentary agenda shared by humanities and design that is the starting point for this cross-disciplinary project.
Burdick, A., Drucker, J., Lunenfeld, P., Presner, T., and Schnapp, J. (2012) Digital_Humanities, MIT Press: Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 13
Drucker, J. (2010), ‘Graphesis: Visual knowledge production and Representation,’ Poetess Archive Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, p. 1 – 36.