The History of Visualization through the Rubenstein Library's Special Collections
In 1821, William Playfair critiqued Adam Smith's conclusions in The Wealth of Nations. He argued that, despite Smith's genius, his conclusions would have been much different had he used data visualizations. In my class, "Theories and Practices of Data Visualization," my students and I study data visualizations through history in order to understand how the data visualization methods that we now employ daily have developed over time. Of primary concern is how visualization technologies and techniques made data increasingly accessible to larger audiences, and became instrumental in broadcasting information, and, even in some cases, saving lives. In visiting the collections of Duke's Rubenstein Library, students examine and interact with historical visualizations in their original context. In this talk I will discuss the highlights of this collection and the consequences of studying the history of data visualization on the development of present-day visualization practices.