Timeline Test: Not as Easy as I Expected

Timeline Found Here!

A quick word about the production of this timeline: it may be incomplete at the time you are reading this. I will continue to improve and work on the timeline before Tuesday in-class and will update the post as well. This does present opportunities to discuss Timeline.JS as an accessible tool however. It is impressive how quality graphics can be produced relatively easily using a google document, text and hyperlinks. I noticed that editing the minute details of the system is difficult however. Primarily the difficulty I am currently facing is the adaptation of pictures into a format readable by the program. Many of my resources, in the interest of remaining copyright-neutral, came from Wikimedia Commons but do not appear in the final product. I will strive to seek out new photos, but I do think this poses something of an issue that Timeline.JS cannot adapt to other formats easily. Those images taken from Flickr also come with the text that content producer attached to the text and displays it, which also squashes the image. This is difficult to navigate, though given how useful the tool can be perhaps worth the headache in lieu of another option.

Timelines are and incredibly useful tool to use for broad audiences in a number of contexts. Provided with educational materials it can help teachers to reinforce material and provide easy-to-follow information for students. People in general understand their world and lives chronologically, so arranging information in this way is inherently useful. It also, used appropriately, can demonstrate that property most often attributed to history – “change over time.” Making a timeline of one city, one person, one event can show how the event plays out, devolves, evolves, etc.

Perhaps just as important is the ability to make connections through the use of overlapping events. On larger timelines that can encompass entire eras or conflicts, showing which events are happening simultaneously or in the immediate vicinity of one another provides are visual cue that these are connected and can lead to deeper understandings. A tool that I think could improve this functionality is a simple line tool which can draw a literal connection between two events along the timeline, and by clicking on the line the consumer could explore how those events are related more closely.

While the timeline suggests a linear guide, I like how Timeline.JS has formatted the interface so that hypertextuality and the opportunity for exploration are not lost. It is important for guests to be able to narrow their focus to improve their personal engagement with the tool, and in the hypothetical situation in which a tool like this is employed on a museum or educational website this is key to tailoring visitor experiences to their own interests while providing opportunities to grow.