Can you make my brain my screenshot?
February 18, 2011 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm diagramming the history of visual arts in my city. I need a "database" -- I use the term loosely -- to help me keep the connections straight. Does such a thing exist?

Think Facebook meets social networking visualization meets Internet Archive. (The Thing, the Meta-Thing, and the Evolution of Both!) I need to be able to visually situate thousands of names, places, organizations, artworks, and personal connections. I'm covering roughly 150 years, but most of the research is just evolutionary footnote... my real interest is the current state of affairs. So I'd also like to add photos and link to blogs and homepages of active artworld figures.

I realize this question is quite broad, and I'm probably best accommodated by a combination of memory aids. But my project is still in infancy. Right now I've hopping like a madwoman between endless lists of "who's who"... matching snapshots and art clips... a running current events calendar... stacks of library books and historical errata... my personal notebooks... and pages and pages of web-links. There must be a fuzzy solution to this linear problem!

(I should note, I don't need to store huge text or media files... I'm not interested in the "meat" of data, so much as the social organization of cows. Webs of Proper Nouns is where it's at yo!)
posted by fritillary to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Mac? Windows? Linux? The first thing that jumps to mind is DEVONthink, followed by Scrivener, but the first one is Mac-only and Scriv's always been a Mac-first application.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 7:02 PM on February 18, 2011

Seems like something you could do with markers and Google Maps.
posted by rhizome at 7:08 PM on February 18, 2011

This question is very vague. What is it that you want the software to do? Is it merely tracking the nature of relationship between bits of data? What do those bits of data look like, and what kind of relationships exist? What is it about whatever you're currently doing to organize your data that doesn't work?
posted by axiom at 7:58 PM on February 18, 2011

Maybe something like Freeplane or Freemind (I prefer Freeplane).
posted by Theloupgarou at 8:17 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: You might try playing around with VUE. It's good for making mindmaps and connections and such.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:18 PM on February 18, 2011

Ah, should mention another fork of Freemind, SciPlore Mindmapping, that is more oriented for researchers.
posted by Theloupgarou at 8:19 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: If this is going to end up on the web as a "site," be sure to plan out how the site will work, because:

1. Doing so may help you figure out what your database needs are, or how it should be structured

2. If you end up committing to any of the software above, you'd better make darn sure that you don't have to redo significant amounts of work when you want to make a searchable, browsable, user-friendly website out of something you have just finished inputting/mindmapping/etc.
posted by circular at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: It sounds like what you want is either a wiki, a set of semi-structured databases or spreadsheets, or something in between these. Easy to use and edit, loose enough that it's easy to tie one thing to another.

How loose can the data be? That is, do you want to do structured computer-type things with places and dates? (it sounds like you do) or would you be content with something human-readable and easy to edit where you would manually link a given entity or page to a timeline or map visualization?

How technical are you? Can you edit HTML? Program? Or do you prefer to do things in Word?

You might consider loading your data into Freebase (or seeing if what you need is already there). Freebase provides search and flexible, editable schema, and will generate timeline and map views as long as the dates and location fields are filled in.
posted by zippy at 11:29 PM on February 18, 2011

Best answer: The data visualization in the aforementioned Freebase is, if memory serves, provided by SIMILE Widgets, which is also a standalone project. I've put together some SIMILE-powered Exhibits along the lines of what it sounds like you're doing.

Exhibit's output is a web page, but it doesn't require a web server. It can be run entirely from your hard drive, with no special software, or you can put it online and share it with the world, if you like. You can even do all the data entry in a Google Spreadsheet, and Exhibit will parse that data as a map, a timeline, and a variety of list and chart formats.

Also, if you do want something more like a wiki, SIMILE Widgets have been integrated into the Semantic Result Formats extension to Semantic MediaWiki. It's included in the Semantic Bundle.

And for what it's worth: as far as mind mapping goes, VUE gets my vote.
posted by Acetylene at 1:23 AM on February 19, 2011

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