Working with Timeline.js was an interesting experience. I really enjoy how the program allows you to place information in a simple spreadsheet, and then have the timeline just ‘create itself:’ it just simply works with your input of information.
I decided to do a short timeline of the life of the Romantic poet John Keats, the author I believe I will be focusing on for my Masters thesis in 2 years time (application due a year in advance!). I wanted to do my timeline on Keats because it was a topic I was interested in, and thought that making a digital timeline would be a nice way to visualize his life and learn more about his life. The dates I selected within the timeline are the ones I found to be the most important to a telling of his life story. I did not want to create a timeline with every single little detail because it would have been either very long with small bit of information on each slide, or there would be too much information crammed onto one slide. I found that by going through the process of selecting the points I felt were most important showed me how to sift through a wide range of information coming from multiple areas to then come up with a project that showcased the points most integral to understanding the person behind the author.
I would have liked for the timeline to be more customizable with options to select different colours and outline options. I would also like the option to have more than one photo in one slide instead of having to make a new slide to have a different photo. It might also be nice to have the timeline show every point all at once instead of one by one. Although the ability for options such as these are sacrificed, the timeline acts as a nice visual for someone who needs to create something quickly, and it works quite well.
One thing I had trouble with at first was placing the timeline on my blog, but this was quickly fixed when I realized that I needed to switch from the visual viewer to the code viewer to input it, otherwise the code would be presented as text instead of as the timeline itself.
The uses of this tool are many: a researcher can place their research in a timeline on their website to show anything from their own research to a sort of resume showcasing when they have done which writing and such; a student or professor can use it as a visual in a presentation; a museum or public research website/project can use it to present exhibits and information; and Digital Humanities projects can use it as a way to showcase a project in general.
Limitations that I see with this tool is that, while it fits the description of a Visualization, where it allows for the “transformation from data to visual representations in order to facilitate effective and efficient cognitive processes in performing tasks involving data” (Chen et al. 6), it does not allow much room for showcasing an argument, thesis, or “hypothesis evaluation” (5). It is more for presenting factual information based on a range of dates. It would be most helpful in a historical or biographical context, but not for projects that require information that does not pertain to a date format such as aggregate data.
This tool has limited ability to “contribute to new and emergent ways of understanding the material,” the definition of the “best” type of visualization according to Sinclair et al., as while it has options for researchers to input many different types of media within the slideshow to present information in a new way, it does not particularly allow for a researcher to present their thesis alongside their data unless they have another tool working with it that presents it separately. That is, the tool does not have the option for multiple slides on one page, so the information would most likely be crammed onto one page which is not very user-friendly.
I enjoy how simple this tool is to use for someone looking for a dated timeline to add to their project or website, but for it to be a groundbreaking tool in digital humanities scholarship, it would need some more features and adjustments. The tool is certainly a good static visualization, but it is not a good tool for partaking in research except to present one’s own or view someone else’s research surrounding a very narrow topic entailing historical, dated information.
Thanks for reading!
Edit: I found a timeline that includes most of the features that I felt were missing from Timeline.js: it’s called timeglider, and they have a free account for students!