Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Charlotte Christoffersen and family time

Readers of this blog will know I am fascinated by representations of Time as a straight line. This is of course just one model, often contrasted with cyclic or circular models allegedly held by, for example, Greek, Asian, or any non-Judaeo-Christian cultures. Such binary contrasts have been rejected as simplistic by Feeney (2007:3), Goody (2006: 18) and Gould (1987) respectively. In fact in any culture we seem to operate comfortably with switchable concepts of Time. In the words of Möller and Luraghi (1995:7), ‘most people perceive time in different ways according to their context or situation, with the result that any one culture is characterised by a range of different perceptions of time.’

Charlotte Christoffersen, who is graduating this year from the Innovation Design Engineering programme at the Royal College of Art, has been investigating the different models of Time used by archetypal members of a family. It is partly motivated by her interest in intra-family communication, which she suspects is made more difficult if their models of Time are not shared. She has made a number of digital tools to ‘translate’ one kind of Time to another. One of the simplest but most effective is here:
Sliders (in the foreground here) alter four aspects of the model of time displayed on the screen.
Operating one slider (controversially labelled masculinity / femininity!) transforms the working clock from a line to a circle, via all the stages in-between.
Her research for the project involved lots of interviews and observations of adults and children documented as a book and later to be available on her website.

Feeney, D. (2007), Caesar’s Calendar: ancient time and the beginnings of history. Berkeley: Uni. California Press.
Goody, J. (2006), The Theft of History. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Gould, S.J. (1987), Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle: myth and metaphor in the discovery of geological time. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Möller, A. and Luraghi, N. (1995), Time in the Writing of History: perceptions and structures. Storia della Storiografia 28. 3-15.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Arthur Buxton's visual timescapes

Arthur Buxton alerted me to his visual chronologies produced as prints.

His work employs data visualisation methods using colour extraction tools to explore trends in painting and print media. Using open source software he extracts colours from images gathered online to create charts and timelines that typically display the five most common colours in each image as a percentage.

TITLE: British Vogue Covers 1981 - 2011; YEAR: 2011; EDITION SIZE: 10; IMAGE DIMENSIONS: W 71 cm x H 37 cm;  SUBSTRATE DIMENSIONS: W 81 cm x H 48 cm;  MEDIUM: Pigmented Inkjet Print
Within this piece and its companions the small bar charts show the five most prominent colours, proportionally, in an individual Vogue cover. Each column is a year starting with September (when the fashion year starts) at the top and working down to October at the bottom. The columns run from 1981 on the right working across to 2011 on the left.

I was intrigued by Arthur's decision to map time from right to left (I have just finished an article for Design Issues about orientation and direction in mapping time). He answered,
‘It's just how the piece took shape and I was happy with the result. I'm not that attached to the right - left orientation though. Flipping it horizontally would be easy and wouldn't effect the information itself. I studied illustration BA and we were taught that in a narrative context left - right is 'adventure' and right-left is 'going home'.’  
I had not heard those metaphors for time direction before. Has anyone else? Do you have other distinctive ways of differentiating left-right and right-left flows for time?

See more Vogue-derived prints (showing how different the palette of the different national editions is) and related work by Arthur here.

Arthur is Technical Instructor / Artist in Residence at the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England.