Updating Visualizations and the Power of Open Access Review

Nov 20, 2014

By Jo and David

Danny Loss, an enormously creative historian of the idea of spirituality itself, has asked over Twitter about the temporality of our figure 2, which shows the shortening of time scales in dissertations via Ben Schmidt's visual analysis of the temporality of dissertations as recorded by the American Historical Association. When the chart was reproduced for our book, only part of the visual was used -- the mean and median lines indicated in red. Those lines suggest that timescales of dissertation-writing were increasing after about 1962, as Danny Loss points out. Yet if one is particularly interested in our argument about the role of the 1970s in changing the analysis of history -- a point that has drawn in some readers in social history in particular -- the scatterplot that we omitted in the book becomes more interesting than the averages. We therefore attach the visualization here and update the digital copies of the book with Ben Schmidt's original version.

Ben Schmidt's visual analysis of the temporality of dissertations

One of the great opportunities made possible by online publishing is correcting a chart in response to dialogue raised by members of one’s community. Historians of the book can appreciate the choices that go into selecting a particular visualization for print; the first edition of our book will have only mean and median, but in the online version we can correct the visualization to the more appropriate scatterplot, as indeed we are doing, with direct thanks to Danny Loss for raising the question on Twitter. Capabilities such as these may, in the future, give historians more room to collaborate with their professional readers in a more ongoing and discursive way than that which is currently allowed for by the system of peer review practiced by most journals and book publishers.


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