Introduction by OpenMethods Editor (Christopher Nunn): Information visualizations are helpful in detecting patterns in large amounts of text and are often used to illustrate complex relationships. Not only can they show descriptive phenomena that could be revealed in other ways, albeit slower and more laborious, but they can also heuristically generate new knowledge. The authors of this article did just that. The focus here is, fortunately, on narratological approaches that have so far hardly been combined with digital text analyzes, but which are ideally suited for them. To eight German novellas a variety of interactive visualizations were created, all of which show: The combination of digital methods with narratological interest can provide great returns to Literary Studies work. After reading this article, it pays to think ahead in this field.
We present findings from interdisciplinary research at the intersection between literary studies, information visualization, and interface design. Despite a growing interest in text visualization among literary scholars, so far, narrative visualizations are not designed to support the particular tasks involved in narratological analysis and often fail to reveal nuanced narratological features. One major outcome of our iterative research and design process is Narrelations, a novel visualization technique specifically suited for analyzing and interpreting narrative levels of a story and temporal aspects of its narrative representation. The visualization provides an overview of the nesting and distribution of narrative levels, integrates the representation of temporal phenomena, and facilitates the examination of correlations between these aspects. With this research we explore how collaboratively designed visual encodings and interaction techniques may allow for an insightful analysis at a high level coupled with a close inspection of text passages. We discuss prior work relevant to our research objectives and explain the specific characteristics of narrative levels and temporal aspects of narrative representation. After describing the research process and design principles, we apply the visualization on a test corpus of eight annotated German short stories and demonstrate its heuristic value for literary analyses and interpretations. In particular, we explore the intricate connections between the literary content of the novellas and their narrative form.
Original date of publication: November, 2019.