Edward Gorey Talks About His Love Cats & More in the Animated Series, “Goreytelling”

My childhood discovery of Edward Gorey proved revelatory. I recognized my own bewilderment in the blank expressions of his obsessively-rendered Edwardian children. His characters, imprisoned in starched collars and stays, stared at the world through hollow eyes, struck dumb by alternating currents of absurdity and horror. Every youngster with budding goth and New Romantic sensibilities found themselves drawn into Gorey’s weird worlds. Confessed Goreyphiles like Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman took much from a style Steven Kurutz describes as “camp-macabre, ironic-gothic or dark whimsy.”

He gave his readers permission to be odd and haunted, and to laugh about it, but he never seemed to have needed such permission himself. He was as sui generis as he was mysterious, the scowling older gentleman with the long white beard assumed the role of an anti-Santa, bestowing gifts of guilt-free, solitary indulgence in dark fantasy.

But the man himself remained shrouded, and that was just as well. Learning more about him as an adult, I have been struck by just how closely he resembles some of his characters, or rather, by how much he was, in work and life, entirely himself.

A fashionably bookish hermit and Wildean aesthete, a man to whom, “by his own admission… nothing happened,” Gorey organized his life in New York around reading, seeing films, and attending George Balanchine’s ballets. (He rarely missed a performance over the course of three decades, then moved to his famed Cape Cod house when Balanchine died in the mid-80s.) “Despite being a lifelong Anglophile, he made just one brief visit to Scotland and England,” writes Kurutz, “his only trip abroad.”

In a Proust Questionnaire he answered for Vanity Fair, Gorey wrote that his favorite journey was “looking out the window.” The supreme love of his life, he wrote: his cats. Those beloved creatures are the subject of the third episode of Goreytelling, at the top, an animated web series consisting of short excerpts from an upcoming documentary simply titled Gorey, directed by Christopher Seufert, who spent several years recording his conversations with Gorey. The very Gorey-like animations are by Benjamin and Jim Wickey.

If you’ve ever wondered what Edward Gorey sounded like, wonder no more. Hear his solidly Midwestern accent (Gorey grew up in Chicago) as he describes the travails of living with adorable, frustrated predators who destroy the furniture and throw themselves on his drawing table, ruining his work. Further up, he tells the story of a mummy’s head he kept wrapped up in his closet, and just above he tells a story about The Loathesome Couple a 1977 book he wrote based a series of real-life murders of British children by a married couple. “A lot people,” he says, would tell him “this one book of yours, I really find a little… much.”

Goreyphiles out there, and they number in the millions, will thoroughly enjoy these animations (see episode 2, “Fan Mail,” here and 4, “Dracula,” here). Gorey the documentary promises to bring us even closer to the curmudgeonly author and artist. His life makes for a quirky series of vignettes, but ultimately Gorey was a “Magellan of the imagination,” says cultural critic and biographer Mark Dery. “He journeyed vastly between his ears…. So that’s where you have to look for the life. On the psychic geography of his unconscious,” and in the pages of his over 100 satisfyingly unsettling books.

via Laughing Squid

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Edward Gorey Illustrates H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in His Inimitable Gothic Style (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock Meditates on Suspense & Dark Humor in a New Animated Video

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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The “Most Secretive Library in the World”: The Future Library Will Collect 100 Original Manuscripts by Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell & More, to Be Read for the First Time in 2114

Should intelligent life of some form or another still inhabit the planet in the year 6939, such beings might come upon an “800-pound tube of an alloy of copper and chromium called Cupaloy” that was buried 50 feet beneath what was once Queens. The first time capsule, lowered under the Westinghouse exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair contains “35 items one might find in any run-of-the-mill Smith family household,” as Jinwoo Chong writes at Untapped Cities, “including copies of Life magazine, a Sears and Roebuck catalog, cigarettes and seeds of wheat, corn, alfalfa and soy.”

The Future Library, a time capsule-like project presently in the works, takes a very different approach to the concept. “A forest is growing in Norway,” explains an introductory video on creator Katie Paterson’s website. “In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.” The books that will be printed from 1,000 trees planted in Nordmarka, north of Oslo, will not, however, transmit mining and navigational instructions, but a full range of human emotion and personal experience. Or so we might assume. Unlike the 1939 time capsule, we'll never know what's inside them.

Scottish artist Paterson has planned a library of 100 creative works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry—one manuscript submitted every year until 2114, when she intends them all to be printed in 3,000 copies each and read for the first time. Almost none of us will be there to witness the event, yet “the timescale is… not vast in cosmic terms,” she says. “It is beyond our current lifespans, but close enough to come face to face with it, to comprehend and relativize,” unlike the incomprehensible future of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine or the far-off world for which Westinghouse designed their capsule.

Nonetheless, technological, and perhaps even evolutionary, change has increased exponentially in the past several decades, as have the possibilities for global extinction events. Margaret Atwood, the first author to submit an unpublished, unread manuscript to the Future Library in 2014, is characteristically less than sanguine about the existence of future readers for her manuscript, entitled Scribbler Moon. “It’s very optimistic to believe that there will still be people in 100 years,” she says in the short video above, and “that those people will still be reading.” Atwood imagines a near-future that may not even recognize our time.

Which words that we use today will be different, archaic, obsolete? Which new words will have entered the language? We don’t know what footnotes we will need. Will they have computers? Will they call them something else? What will they think smartphones are? Will that word still exist?

Writers for the project are chosen by the Future Library’s board of trustees. After the canny selection of Atwood, they chose the equally on-the-nose David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas, who calls the library “the Ark of Literature.” It is a strange ark, filled with animals few people living now will likely ever see. "The world's most secretive library," The Guardian calls it.  In 2016, Icelandic novelist and poet Sjón submitted his mysterious text. The fourth work came from Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, who named the project “a secular act of faith.”

The latest writer chosen is Man Booker-winning South Korean novelist Han Kang, who described the Future Library as a literal expression of the writer’s thoughts on their duty to posterity: “I cannot survive 100 years from now, of course. No one who I love can survive, either. This relentless fact has made me reflect on the essential part of my life. Why do I write? Who am I talking to, when I write?” Did Jane Austen imagine her readers of 100 years later? Could she ever have imagined us?

Not only is the Future Library an act of literary faith, but it is an ecological one. “The next 96 years do not look promising for the seedlings,” writes Merve Emre at The New York Times, “which are more vulnerable than their ancestors to all manner of man-made disasters.” The project symbolically binds together the fates of the book and the trees, making “the physicality of culture palpable by insisting that we confront the long, laborious process of preserving language.”

In 2020, the collection of manuscripts will be moved to a “Silent Room” in Oslo, a “womb-shaped chamber facing the forest, lined with wood from its trees.” Visitors can come and venerate these secretive future relics in their ribbon-wrapped gray boxes. But their contents—should the ambitious endeavor go as planned—will remain as elusive as the shape of our collective future 100 years from now.

via NYTimes

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Aldous Huxley to George Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (1949)

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The “Most Secretive Library in the World”: The Future Library Will Collect 100 Original Manuscripts by Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell & More, to Be Read for the First Time in 2114 is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Library of Congress Makes Thousands of Fabulous Photos, Posters & Images Free to Use & Reuse

The history of the venerable Library of Congress demonstrates the vast importance that the founders of the U.S. accorded to reading and studying. It may be one of the country’s most durable institutions, “the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation,” it proclaims. While partisan rancor, war, and violence recur, the LoC has stolidly held an ever-increasingly diverse collection of artifacts sitting peacefully alongside each other on several hundred miles of shelves, a monument to the life of the mind that ought to get more attention.

Touting itself as “the largest library in the world,” its collections “are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages.”




Its first materials were, of course, books—including over six-thousand books purchased from Thomas Jefferson’s private collection after the British burned the original library down in 1814. Now, it “adds approximately 12,000 items to the collection daily,” in every possible format one can imagine.

And since its digital collections came online, anyone, anywhere in the world can call up these vast resources with an internet connection and a few clicks. Though we tend to take such things for granted in our fervidly distracted times, a little reflection should remind us of how incredible that is. But before we wax too rhapsodic, let’s remember there’s a business end to the LoC and it’s called the U.S. Copyright Office, that guardian of intellectual property that both ensures creators can profit from their labors and prevents the free and open use of so many enriching materials long after those creators have need of them.

But the Library has done its digital users a service in this regard as well, with its “Free to Use and Reuse Sets,” a sizable collection of images that the Library “believes… is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.” (The use of the word “believes” seems to leave room for doubt, but if you got it with permission from the LoC, you’re probably safe.) Need photographs of Abraham Lincoln—and scans of his speeches, letters, and “dueling instructions”—for that book you’re writing? You’re covered with this gallery. Need a collection of classic children's books for your website (or your reading pleasure)? Here you go.

From the graphic genius of vintage WPA and travel posters to iconic jazz portraits by William Gottlieb to baseball cards to endlessly quaint and quirky American roadside attractions to pictures of dogs and their people… you never know when you might need such images, but when you do you now know where to find them. Want to know what’s in the set called “Not an Ostrich”? A valkyrie cat named Brunnhilde, for one thing, and much more here.

The Library currently highlights its “Poster Parade”—a set of posters from the 1890s to the 1960s featuring “travel, commercial products, war propaganda, entertainment, and more”—in collaboration with Poster House, a museum opening in New York next year. These range from delectable art nouveau ads to shouty broadsides telling you to drink your milk, brush your teeth, or have “More Courtesy.” Sensible prescriptions, but we also need more knowledge, study, and thought. Start at the LoC’s Digital Collections here and harvest your free to use and reuse images here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

 

The Library of Congress Makes Thousands of Fabulous Photos, Posters & Images Free to Use & Reuse is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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Watch/Hear Led Zeppelin’s Earliest Performances from 1968-69 & Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Band’s Birth

For metalheads and lovers of guitar rock dark, heavy, and chock full of references to sex, demons, tarot cards, and fantasy novels, the birth of Led Zeppelin should be celebrated like Christmas. The 50th anniversary of the band should be a nonstop global cacophony of awkward “Stairway to Heaven” covers. Yes, there are other things going on in the world, terrible things—things that would be that much harder to bear without music as fiery and bombastic as that concocted by the combo of Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham.

In 1968, the band seemed to rocket out of nowhere—erroneously billed as “Len Zefflin” in its earliest taped gig at a Gonzaga University Gymnasium as an opening act for “The Vanilla Fudge” (hear the bootleg above).




But kids in the know knew them as recently-ex-Yardbird Jimmy Page’s new project, originally intended to be a supergroup starring Jeff Beck and The Who’s Keith Moon and John Entwistle. This “dry run,” notes music journalist Keith Shadwick, was Page’s “first attempt to put something together that was really heavyweight.”

Page's friend from his session days, John Paul Jones, ended up on bass for the only recording session, the project fell apart, and instead Page recruited two not-yet-superstars, Plant and Bonham from Band of Joy, to form what was first known as the New Yardbirds before a cease and desist letter. Accounts of who came up with the replacement name—first “Led Balloon,” a variation on the phrase for a big flop—vary. “But it was said afterwards that that’s what it could have been called,” remembers Page. “Because Moony wanted to get out of The Who, and so did John Entwistle…. Instead, it didn’t happen.”

Yet, it happened. Less determined musicians might have scrapped the idea and joined another band. Page, known as “Mister Cool” for his professionalism, had a distinct vision for what he wanted and was hellbent on manifesting it. “Page said he had Led Zeppelin’s sound, and first songs, fully formed in his mind before the Yardbirds were even done,” Andrew Dalton writes at The Chicago Tribune.“I just knew what way to go,” said Page. “It was in my instinct.”

He conjured the magic with a ceremonial instrument—a 1959 Fender Telecaster he got from Jeff Beck, on which he painted a psychedelic dragon. He called the guitar “the Excalibur" (now a signature guitar that you can buy in replica next year).

After tours of Scandinavia and England as the New Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin made their formal debut at the University of Surrey on October 25th, 1968, then they toured the U.S. and released their debut album in January. Here, you can hear and see some of the band’s first introductions to the world, in the bootleg Gonzaga concert recording at the top, a filmed 1968 performance of “Dazed and Confused,” further up, and, just above, a killer live set from March of ’69 at the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Denmark.

It’s no great surprise that they sounded as good as they did from the start, nor that they had such savvy and poise. Zeppelin was “typical,” writes Shadwick, “of this third wave [of British bands] in that… all were experienced and thoroughly professional even though they were still very young, and they had more than a passing knowledge of how the industry worked before they even signed their first deal as a unit.” But what continues to astonish about Led Zeppelin’s debut is just how heavy it still sounds, 50 years later. Their distant progeny may have taken the template to absurd extremes, but even in the bleakest, most blistering black metal we hear Zeppelin’s musical DNA.

As one early fan who caught them at that early Gonzaga show later remarked, “It was like, after that, psychedelia was dead and heavy metal was born, all in a three-hour show.”

Related Content:

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

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Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Performs Songs from His New Soundtrack for the Horror Film, Suspiria

It’s a strange time to remake a Dario Argento movie. The master of giallo (Italian for “yellow”), the crime, thriller, and horror genre films that flourished in the 60s and 70s, took particular pleasure in torturing his female characters, often in scenes involving rape and starring his topless daughter. Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 Suspiria “opens its eyes in a world where female power has never been stronger or more under attack,” writes Wired’s Angela Watercutter, who advises those who haven’t seen the original to save it until they’ve watched the modern homage.

Aiming to “de-victimize” Argento’s women, the remake takes the original story of a coven of witches operating a dance studio in Berlin but emphasizes its characters as figures of mysterious power who are both “fear and revered.” Where Argento goes for the maximal amount of luridness—in blazing reds and yellows echoed in the first scenes in a neon McDonald’s sign—Guadagnino’s approach “is more muted in both palatte and tone, opting for insidious weirdness over shock and gore,” as David Roony writes at The Hollywood Reporter.

Contributing heavily to the shift in tone is a score from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke that could “hardly be more dissimilar to the cacophonous prog-rock of Goblin that was such an essential part of the original’s sensory assault.” To call the first Suspiria and its glorious score an “assault” is not at all pejorative, but a purely accurate description of their style. But Guadagnino wisely sensed that the grim beauty of Yorke’s songwriting would best speak to a contemporary version, so he hounded the Radiohead singer until he agreed.

Though he’d never scored a film before, and was intimated by the challenge, Yorke found his way in through the script. “There was this melancholy which I was really surprised about. Not like a normal horror film at all,” he says in the BBC interview at the top with Mary Anne Hobbs. He calls the film’s mood “a weird form of darkness,” which could equally describe the evocations of dread underlying all of his work. The process of scoring Suspiria, he says, was “freeing… because there’s no sense of my identity on it at all…. I’m whoever he wanted me to be at the moment, for whatever particular section of the film.”

These live performances for the BBC, especially “Suspirium” further up, might seem to belie that assessment. The songs draw deeply from Yorke’s familiar well of spare, atmospheric angst, which is all to the good. They also see him moving in unexpected directions. “Open Again” builds on a gently finger-picked acoustic guitar figure, and “Unmade,” above, almost channels Burt Bacharach’s moodier film pieces, with its lounge-y piano and yearning vocal melody.

The score became a family project; Yorke’s son played drums on some of the tracks and his daughter helped design the artwork. On a BBC Radio 6 appearance, Yorke also played an hour-long mix of his favorite atmospheric records and debuted a previously unreleased track called “Suspiria Solo Glass Harmonica.” Listen here and see the new Suspiria trailer below.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Performs Songs from His New Soundtrack for the Horror Film, <i>Suspiria</i> is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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The Evolution of Bob Dylan: Early Recordings Let You Hear an Unknown Singer Turn Into a 60s Superstar (1958-1965)

Approaching Bob Dylan’s body of work as a newcomer can be intimidating. The Nobel Laureate now gets taught at Harvard and Princeton, compared to Virgil and Ovid, Yeats and Joyce. Diving into Dylan’s own literary influences requires a formidable reading list. But as Sean Wilentz, consummate Dylan fan, Princeton professor of history, and author of Bob Dylan in Americapoints out, the Dylan legacy carries so much weight not only because of the singer's voracious reading habits, but because he emerged “in a culture in which songwriting has always been a major force” on the culture.

New Dylan fans come to him through his influence on the past 50 years of popular music, and understand him through the influence of the first 50 years of 20th century American music on him. He’s cited by such diverse legends as Hendrix, Bowie, and Boy George—at one time everyone wanted to be Dylan, or to write like him, at least—but one reason so many have imitated him is because he acquired his considerable depth by imitating others.




Growing up in the bleak surroundings of Hibbing, Minnesota, “a good place to leave,” he said, Dylan spent his time absorbing all he could from the Delta blues, the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, and Elvis. Like the best of his own imitators, Dylan developed the ability to transmute his influences into something new through close study, critical appreciation, and just plain-old goofing around.

In his earliest known recordings, made in 1958 in Hibbing with his hometown friend John Bucklen, Dylan does a little bit of all three, but mostly he sings ramshackle covers of rhythm and blues songs on an acoustic guitar, honing his talent for barreling through solo performances two years before he hit the stages of Greenwich Village’s coffeehouse folk scene.

The John Bucklen tape opens up a 5-hour Youtube collection featuring recordings from 1958 to 1965, which you can stream above. It's a set of “almost all the earliest tapes Bob made before signing up with Columbia Records,” notes the Youtube uploader. (“Some of the early stuff is dismal at best,” one reviewer of the collection writes, “but its historical importance cannot be overstated.”) From the ’58 home recordings, overdubbed with Bucklen’s later commentary, we move to the so-called Minnesota Party Tape, “a 35 minute recording in Bob’s apartment in Minneapolis" featuring his renditions of some traditional songs like “Johnny I hardly Knew You” and “Streets of Glory.”

This tape also shows the predominating influence of Woody Guthrie on Dylan at the time, the songwriter whom he most modeled himself after in the early sixties—later writing that he aimed to be “Guthrie’s greatest disciple"—and who pops up again and again in nearly all of these recordings after 1960. In January of 1961, Dylan moved to New York to visit Guthrie, then dying of Huntington’s disease, and began picking up Irish folk songs and African American spirituals from Dave Van Ronk, Odetta, and other downtown folk singers. He integrates these styles into his Guthrie imitation and picks up bits of Pete Seeger, Hank Williams, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Jesse Fuller from his covers of their songs.

In tapes from 1962-63, we hear home recording versions of well-known originals from his first two albums—“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”—and hear in them the cumulative layering of influence from Dylan’s years of apprenticeship. The entire collection, which includes interviews with Billy James and Steve Allen and performances on radio and TV, shows Dylan “evolving from a young kid in Minnesota to a superstar in 1965 before going electric… an amazing look at a young Bob Dylan becoming a legend in front of you.” Key to that evolution was his talent for creative imitation of traditional American music and its greatest interpreters.

See the full tracklist in the comment section of the video, and note that the third and fourth segments are in the wrong order in the Youtube video above.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Evolution of Bob Dylan: Early Recordings Let You Hear an Unknown Singer Turn Into a 60s Superstar (1958-1965) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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A Data Visualization of Modern Philosophy, 1950-2018

Those of us who think of ourselves as philosophy enthusiasts remain free to read and think about whatever we like, no matter how obscure, marginal, or out-of-fashion the ideas. But the academy presents a different picture, one fraught with political maneuvering, funding issues, and fretting about tenure. Does professionalization do philosophy a disservice by codifying the kinds of problems we should be thinking and writing about? Or do we need professional philosophy for exactly this reason? It depends on who you ask.

One argument against the academy consists in pointing out that many, if not most, of history’s influential philosophers have been amateurs in one sense or another: grinding away at day jobs, for example, like Baruch Spinoza, or living on family money, like Ludwig Wittgenstein, two radical philosophical outsiders whose Ethics and Tractatus, respectively, have been turned into data visualizations by Maximilian Noichl. It’s interesting to speculate about how these thinkers, both so visually-inclined, would respond to the treatment.




Noichl’s latest project, now in its third and, so far, final iteration, involves tracing “The Structure of Recent Philosophy from the 1950s to this day.” Clearly implied, but unstated in his description is that these maps chart only the specialized interests of academic philosophy, but the omission highlights the fact that contemporary philosophical work outside the academy receives no recognition in the literature and, therefore, hardly qualifies as philosophy at all under current strictures.

To construct the map at the top (click here to see the full infographic, then click it again for a high resolution version), Noichl aggregated over 50,000 articles “from various philosophy journals.” The journals all come from Clarivate Analytics Web of Science collection, which skews the selection. Noichl began with a "snow-ball-sampling (a few thousand papers)," then extended his sample by "repeatedly looking at the most cited publications." The resulting papers were then “spatially distributed according to their citation-patterns.”

Every point on the graphic represents one article. Noichl used two different algorithms to sort and group the data, and his explanatory text on the original graphic at his site explains the technical details. The clusters are “a bit heterogenic in their nature,” he writes.

While some are thematic, others are determined strongly by specific persons or eras, which seems in itself to be an interesting observation about the structure of the literature….. [T]here is… a remarkable cleft between theory of science and epistemology. And the ways various historical clusters group themselves around moral philosophy suggests an internal relation. We can also observe that continental philosophy seems to split into two halves…

The exercise presents us with a summary image of some of the field’s most persistent concerns for the past 60 years or so. I can imagine historians of philosophy—and maybe critics of academic philosophy—making excellent use of this colorfully organized data. Noichl vaguely mentions a possible use of the map as a “reality check for some debates.” The question of what it contributes to philosophical thinking remains open. And we might ask whether big data does philosophy a disservice by algorithmically reproducing certain existing conditions, rather than critically interrogating them as philosophers have always done.

Yet it’s clear that data visualizations are now standard tools for teaching and learning any number of subjects, and in many cases, they offer helpful shorthand, as does another of Noichl’s interactive graphics, “Relationships Between Philosophers, 600 B.C.-160 B.C.,” a “delightful depiction,” writes Justin Weinberg at Daily Nous, “of the interrelation of the ideas of ancient philosophers over time.” See Noichl’s site for the three versions of “The Structure of Recent Philosophy” and other philosophy data visualizations.

And at the links below, see how others have used data visualization tools to organize the history of philosophy in different ways.

via Daily Nous

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The History of Philosophy Visualized

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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