Nodegoat: Visualising Data For All

I recently happened upon Nodegoat after a lecture on Museum and Heritage data, the need for visualising data related to past events and artefacts is an important one. In the past we have had to compile, sort and evaluate different media to get a picture of historical events, which can be quite tedious and hard to visualise in an accessible way for us to comprehend and understand without much ambiguity. This year in Ireland, we have the 1916 rising centenary. The need for us to correctly portray the events of the Rising is very important.

The data we have on the Rising is vast and varied, ranging from letters, photographs and newspaper articles along with Pathé newsreels and various other documents from the British government. The need to correctly display this raw data and translate it into highly accessible documents or exhibition installations for people to read and experience is important and can be a great way to showcase what we can achieve with using digital tools.

The fact that we have been able to develop digital tools over last 10 to 15 years that not only work well, but can make our understanding of history even greater, is part of the reason why I study what I study (Digital Humanities and Information Technology) so we can further develop these tools to preserve our history digitally for future generations to enjoy.

This is why I took a look at Nodegoat.

What Nodegoat does is this: it takes what data you have, evaluates your data and offers you relational modes of analysis with different methods of contextualisation. The programme uses a very simple method to achieve this, it takes events, names, artefacts and uses and object-oriented approach to identify each object, finds the relationship between each individual object, and then maps it out for the user to see and display.

This is an important function, you can have all the data you want but no longer have to painfully construct meaningful ways to display the data for interpretational value or simply to display to others. In regards to an exhibition style display in museums and art galleries etc, while the people looking at an exhibition based purely on a set of data may not know what they’re actually looking at, Nodegoat makes the experience for the person an intuitive one, which is an important factor for any exhibition.

The creators of Nodegoat are LAB110, based in The Hague, Netherlands. The desire of the creators was to easily translate raw data to accessible media for us to enjoy, which they have achieved, however, upon finding this tool I was immediately struck by how little or vague/ambiguous the information on Nodegoat was. I found that their website isn’t the best to display what Nodegoat is and how we can or should use it. I feel this tool is primarily directed at academia, but if it is a tool that can be used to translate data to accessible media, I think the tool should be made more accessible to everyone and not just a particular set of people. Maybe this is the aim of the creators of the tool but I feel this tool is highly beneficial not just to academia, but can also be useful for civil, governmental and possibly military use. I think if the creators were to change focus and possibly adapt the tool in this way, it would make Nodegoat a far more effective tool.

 

Another factor I have seen that may be viewed as a possible negative factor is the opening paragraph on the homepage which is used to describe Nodegoat. While being quite a comprehensive description of the tool, may turn users off from using It altogether. This may also feed back into the overall design for the site, but this is a different matter altogether to the tool itself.

Nodegoat is not open source. Something I don’t find really disappointing but a factor others may find quite annoying, I do understand that a lot of work goes into creating these tools and updating and maintaining them.

Overall I find Nodegoat a good tool to use, albeit a complex one, but to display complex forms of data in exhibition media for all to interact and engage with, the tool would have to be complex. In comparison to the types of data that can be translated, this tool operates well and achieves its objective fairly well.

Nodegoat can be found at http://nodegoat.net/

 

 

 

 

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