Description: For hundreds of years, historians have used prose and narrative to convey history. This is about to change thanks to new technology, digital scholarship, and computerized "visualization." Text itself has inherent limitations: the very use of words -- their meaning and the connections among them -- shapes and restricts how historians think and communicate ideas. The rise of the computer is radically altering how human beings receive and process information. Digital environments and virtual reality are adding a third dimension to communication and creating a new visual language.
This visionary and thoroughly accessible book examines this entire revolutionary phenomenon and how historians will utilize the new medium of computers and the new language of visualization to transform our understanding of history. Drawing on familiar graphic models -- maps, flow charts, museum displays, films -- the author shows how images can often convey ideas and information more efficientyly and accurately than words. With emerging digital technology, these images will become more sophisticated, manipulable, and multidimensional, and provide historians with new tools and environments to construct historical narratives. Just as the transition from prehistoric cave paintings to the spread of literacy changed how people think and process information, so has -- and will -- the computer. Moving beyond the traditional book based on linear narrative, digital scholarship based on visualization and hypertext will offer multiple perspectives, dimensions, and experiences that transform how historians work and how people imagine and learn about history.
Comment(s): "This is one of the most clear-sighted and engaging statements ever written on the digital future of history. Offering a balanced and yet passionate analysis, Staley's book challenges historians to think in new ways." -- Edward L. Ayers, University of Virginia
"In this provocative work, David Staley asks historians to reflect upon a domain of practice that most take for granted: the conventions they use to represent the past. Staley has done scholars an immense service by pressing them to face the larger significance of the computer, that it is leading to visual forms of representation and narration. For the author, this is an opportunity to be seized, a chance to enter an expressive universe filled with 'thick depictions' and 'digital charticles.' Staley's work will force historians to think deeply and differently about their discipline. We are in his debt for his insistence that we do so." -- John Bonnett, Ph. D., National Research Council of Canada
"Staley has greatly expanded the conceptual horizon ... for research and teaching about the complex economic, political, and cultural interactions of world history." -- J. B. Owens, Idaho State University
Review(s): "... a provocative work that calls for historians to recognize the potential of computers to alter our view of history. ... Computers, Visualization, and History belongs in every university library. It should also be read by every historian who is concerned about the future of history in the age of the computer." -- History: Reviews of New Books
"Staley makes a strong prose argument for the intellectual value and theoretical impact of visualizations as well as for the ability of computers to create them." -- The Journal of American History
"... well worth the trouble of writing it, which [Staley] has done quite well, supplementing his story beautifully by helpful visual illustrations." -- History and Theory
"...the prose is readable, the argument is innovative, and for anyone attempting to design a digital interface for historical material, the lessons learned are urgent and enlightening. ... This book is a must-read for all of us in the world of film and visual archives who care about how artifacts and ideas can be mobilized and activated beyond ourselves. ... Computers, Visualization, and History provides not only important arguments for the visualization and spatialization of history, but useful, practical guidelines for how to think about it and how to do it. My advice to readers is to go out and purchase a copy of this book..." -- The Moving Image