Post 2 – Reverse Constructing Bacon

The DH project that I am aiming to reverse engineer is called ‘Six Degrees of Francis Bacon’, and it is a “digital reconstruction of the early modern social network that scholars and students from all over the world will be able to collaboratively expand, revise, curate, and critique.”

While Six Degrees of Francis Bacon is a bit Anglo-centric, it is not difficult to grasp the broader implications of work like this. By mapping out the social networks that members of a past society shared, a more perfect picture of that society may be painted. The same project could be done with members of any sufficiently well-documented civilization.

As far as breaking down the black box of Six Degrees into the basic elements of sources, processes, and presentation, this DH project does not present too difficult a task. The assets the website brings to the table for conveyance are a dataset of persons from history. Each entry contains several parameters, including personal information about the person as well as relationship data between that person and others on the site. This dataset, to the best of my understanding, is continually being updated and crowdsourced – the website accepts (and verifies) submissions of historical persons.

I’m a little bit unclear about the distinction between services/processes and presentation/interface, but Six Degrees offers both a search function and a fairly advanced filter system. It is here that I worry about crossing into the realm of presentation/interface, because these filtration tools are conveniently paired with the graphic, which changes to show only the entries you’ve searched for. Selecting a “dot” of a person on the social network map brings up the corresponding data in a viewing window off to the side of the display, and further tools are available off of that window.

The display, while fully functional, doesn’t jump out at me as something done especially well on this project. There are no problems that I can identify, but there are perhaps too few data points to justify the method of display that was used. The hundred or so displayed dots simply look too few. Some of the filtering options are also awkward in that to search for a group, you must know the complete and accurate tag of that group, not just some relevant part.

2 Replies to “Post 2 – Reverse Constructing Bacon”

  1. Just followed your link to check it out. I think it’s really interesting how they have a Leaderboard tab with the top contributors to the historical data. It makes the crowd sourcing a lot more visible, and perhaps encourages it (Gotta catch ’em all?). What do you think about it?

  2. Yeah, the Leaderboard tab would do a lot to encourage viewing adding to the database as a competition; I just don’t know if it’s something that people would ever care about.

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