Making Pop-Culture Infographic Timelines
My very first concept was based on Neuromancer, the novel by William Gibson, written in 1984, but which I had only read in the 2015 and put a bunch of other stuff in perspective. Movies like Ghost in the Shell and the Matrix slotted into place, alongside more independent works like Brandon Graham’s comicbook series King City, and Brendon Chung’s game Quadrilateral Cowboy.
The original idea was intended to be an interface* for accessing various databases, and allowing users to connect the patterns they saw and wanted to think about. That’s why you see the little preview section with the text input “type here”. After this initial experiment, I realised I still wanted to iterate on this format further, and it lead its own life from that point onward.
3D Exploration Platformers
With the reinvigorated interest from Kickstarters, nostalgia and VR, 3D exploration platformers were jumping into the limelight more frequently, and it got me interested to see how the classics influenced this new generation.
After sharing version 1 with my friends, they were all too willing to jump in and talk about the games and connections I missed. Going for completionism can make a clean infographic pretty hectic.
I had already been curating a list of what I liked to call “First-Person Mysteries” to others these include “walking simulators”, first-person puzzle games and the occasional horror game.
After the big response I got on the platformer infographic, and all the questions, I wanted to detail the connections to see if I could help clarify to everyone a bit more what they meant. Although I included, I didn’t receive much comment, and actually there was less interaction in general with the chart.
Also of note, I started compressing the timeline sort of logarithmically, so that I could have more space to detail the periods of my interest: the surge of first-person mysteries in the past 5 years.
Narrativized Non-Fiction Podcasts & Radio
With This American Life, Serial, Theory of Everything, and so many more non-fiction story podcasts gaining popularity, I started to realise that many of the producers were splitting off and starting their own shows.
The standard node and line connection I had been using though, didn’t quite seem to bring across the nature of serialized content, I started experimenting.
First I gave each show a start and end, then eventually landed on a node per year the show ran. It helped clarify the compressed space, gave a sense of heft to the longer running shows, and allowed me to connect from individual years to other shows, for instance if a producer had worked at the other show till a specific point, or if the creator referenced a specific episode that inspired them.
The Impact of Adventure Time (or the Legacy of Flapjack)
After getting a bit weary of completionism, and not finishing a set or two, I decided to focus back down to basics. Completionism is a fool’s game, especially if you want to explain all the connections. Instead, I tried to make something concise to bring across a specific trend or connections I found subjectively interesting, rather than objectively complete.
In this case that was seeing the boom of cartoon shows being funded after the success of Adventure Time, and my surprise, when I learned of Flapjack, which linked many of the other successful shows to come after it.
To note, I also styled the graph in prominent Adventure Time colors, and tried to replicate the bendiness of the character’s limbs.
Instead of adding the connections in the same image, I decided to put my research in a separate slide, it got a like or two, but in comparison was almost completely ignored.
During the process of this I realised I really like researching this type of pop-culture history and the impact of creators very important to me, but more than that I learned a few lessons:
- People feel like there’s an inter-connectivity between all things, and seeing it visualized is satisfying.
- People like taking part in completing things, filling in gaps in bigger puzzles.
- Iteration is part of the fun.
- Keep it light. Make it too logical, or too detailed, and people tend to tune-out. Maybe it feels like they can’t contribute or it could just feel too heavy and academic.
- Be selective, completionism makes your timeline too busy, and unreadable. Pick a specific trend or manner of connection, don’t try to connect everything.
- Be playful, just because it is research, does not mean it has to look like research.
- Google Drawings is an underrated tool. Free-form correlations** are easy to set up, although it is by no means perfect.
Now get out there and share your ‘just for fun’ research somewhere, anywhere, anyhow! Let’s see the world connected!
*If you want to make a tool like this, get in touch! I’d be happy to talk about it!
**If anyone has a better suggestion for a free-form tool that has database integration, as well as concurrent use, hit me uuuup!