Blog Post

Trouble with tools

For the past year I've been trying to imagine what a data visualization tool as companion to my dissertation on reality television would look like. I think it could be really important. I've met with developer teams on my campus, a student in computer science, and various faculty members, but no concrete plan has yet been formulated. I have no funding for this and don't have high hopes of obtaining grant funding. 

I'll post more details about how I'm envisioning the tool later, but for now, have any of you ever successfully developed a digital tool that you didn't code/create alone? If so, how did you find the resoures to do so and with what funds? How long did it take? Who maintains it and where is it hosted now? 



Good questions! In terms of your specific project, can you talk a bit more about the type of data you're using? 

Scalar comes to mind, but I'm not entirely sure what you need to visualize... 

I'd also love to hear more about environments for building specific tools without extensive coding experience!


Did you see this earlier post on an Information Visualization MOOC? I haven't checked out the site, but maybe there are some useful leads or conversations happening there! It looks like Scott was involved with the course, so maybe he can pipe in with some ideas.


Thanks, Fiona! I've been in preliminary contact with Scalar, but am not sure how far it will go. I will look at the link you posted. I'll write more about my project soon, but my data is pretty straightforward. Title of show, premiere and run dates of shows, networks/channels, and category/ies (using the subgenres I outline in my diss). 

Ideally, I will present the tool using the data I've compiled as relevant to my project, but it will be a tool that will be edit-able and dynamic, though perhaps restricted to registered users? I imagine some combination of these two examples (visually) would be perfect: and


Creating custom visualization tools without any coding/fuding is indeed a tricky endeavor!  Most humanities orientated visualization tools are sepcific to projects and no freely available (something that I think needs to change).

I'm not sure the tools covered in the IVMOOC course will be of much use in terms of what you're looking to do. There are, however, many open source or free general visualziation ools that you might be able to use.  Here's a link to some common ones:

These vary in terms of coding experience needed, with Tableu being minimal and d3 being extensive.  One thing I always find helpful when trying to brainstorm a visualization environment is to create a mock dataset and see what is possible in different toolsets. You might find this useful as well. 

On a visualization nerd side note, Ben Schneiderman pioneered the type of interavtive dyanmic filtering and query you seem to be after back in the 1990s.  The tools he created, then called Film Finder, is now one of those canonical references in the InfoVis field.  You might find it interesting to look at because it really boils down these principles to their basics. 

I should qaulify that I am not an experienced coder by any means,  but I am familar with visualization and am happy to continue trying to help you hash out ideas!



Thanks for the info and sources, Tara! I'm going to check them out and keep in touch. I have a couple more meetings this week to try and hash out some details/possibilities, so I'll post an update once I have more to share about how things are unfolding. 


Chelsea - I'm so interested in what you're doing with this & looking forward to seeing what you come up with. 

Love the links provided already!