Logo and Side Nav


The posts from 2018-2016 are on our archive site: www.softwarestudies.com.

Browse News Archive

23 November 2010

Analyzing the Visual Strategies in the Science and Popular Science Magazines, 1872-2007


William Huber, Tara Zepel, Lev Manovich, 2010

Full Resolution Visualizations

See the full resolution visualizations on Flickr.


This project explores changing strategies in use of images, layout, and content of two magazines: Science (1880-) and Popular Science (1872-). By arranging thousands of magazine pages into s single high resolution image, we are able to reveal gradual temporal changes over long historical periods.

The first visualization (Figure 1) shows evolution of Popular Science over 125 years (1882-2007).

Data: Popular Science magazine - one issue per every five years from the beginning of magazine publication.

Timescale: 1882 to 2007.

Mapping: The issues are arranged in the order of publication (left to right, top to bottom).

The second visualization (Figure 2) shows Science magazine.

Data: All issues of Science magazine from the beginning of publication in 1880 to 1906. Our visualization uses every 3rd page of every issue (9801 pages total).

Timescale: 1880 to 1906.

Mapping: The pages are arranged in the order of publication (left to right, top to bottom).

Now let’s zoom and compare the first few decades of Time and Popular Science magazines. At first, Science includes photographs and hand crafted illustrations. These images are the legitimate parts of the process of creating scientific knowledge. However within about 10 years they disappear almost completely.

The only images that are now generally permitted are graphs: illustration and photo documentation are increasingly treated as a way of communicating the work of science, rather than belonging to the work of science itself. In the last decades of the 19th century scientists make new discoveries that are translated into key technologies of modern society (electricity, wireless communication, etc.).

These technologies and the models that inform them are less about understanding the visible and increasingly about the knowledge of, and the explanatory power of, the invisible. Visualization of 9801 pages of Science reflects this increasing importance of the invisible, and the relegation of the visual to explanation.

Related Projects