I've recently been researching and attempting to visualize my field. I'll share a little background about my program and then the first part of what this visualization process looks like.
My Ph.D. Program--Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media--is an interdisciplinary program between the Communication and English departments at North Carolina State University. One of the final courses that we take, before moving on to comprehensive exams and the dissertation process, is aimed at helping us develop a sense of the field in which we'll be working. This process has taught me that it's particularly important to do this for those of us who will be working in an interdisciplinary field.
Most of my cohort is doing work that doesn't properly belong in any single traditional discipline. This means, first, that there aren't that many people doing exactly the type of thing we'd like to be doing. Instead we are each drawing inspiration, methods, and ideas from a wide variety of scholars across different fields. To start this semester, we were tasked with identifying and researching the top 30 scholars we are likely to be in conversation with during our career.
One of my cohort members, and fellow HASTAC scholar Jason Buel, decided to locate these scholars visually using Google Maps. I've found that process to be particularly helpful, and thought it might be helpful to share the process since so many of us in HASTAC are working in interdisciplinary ways.
If you're signed into Google, then from the Google Maps search box, you just have to move down to the "My maps" area and click "Create":
From there, you can search for any location as you normally would in Google Maps. Once you find it, you can just click the "Add to map" link, and the balloon will turn from green to red, adding it as saved spot on your map:
In order to associate each college with the scholar, I'm clicking edit, which opens up a box where information can easily be typed in:
Another member of my cohort has also discovered that if you have a spreadsheet that contains the location and names, Google Maps can pretty easily import this data and automatically place the pins for you. That could make things a little easier if you plan to store your information in that format from the start.
What I ended up with was a map like this:
Seeing this information displayed in this way helped me realize a few connections I hadn't previously made. First, I was actually pretty surprised that I didn't have anyone from my list in California. But looking around, I noticed some clusters. The northeastern portion of the U.S. and Canada was predominantly Media/Communication Studies related scholars. The England group was more philosophy of information and critical cultural studies, and Australia represented the Deleuze studies scholars.
I'm still tweaking the list of scholars as I narrow down and refine my dissertation topic, but this seemed like an interesting enough experiment that it was worth sharing. You can access my full map here. If you create one, please share it in the comments so I can check it out! And if you can think of other scholars I should consider who might match my interests, I'd love to hear those ideas as well.
Are there other interesting take aways from a visualization process like this one?
In the next part, I'll share one more simple visualization that's been interesting to ponder.
Part 2 is now available here.