Artifact #2 – Data Visualization

Descriptive Metadata and Graphic Visualizations

Students will create and justify data visualizations about illustrations created to accompany H.Rider Haggard’s novels. To complete this artifact students will not only write datasets, they will curate the visualization best fitted to convey the significance of their findings. This project has three parts—1) a data set, 2) 3 data visualizations, 3) a supporting statement—which must be completed and submitted in a dossier.

Stefanie Posavec, “Literary Organism”

Students in groups of 4 or 5 will read one of Haggard’s fifty novels outside of class. Groups will then write descriptive metadata for each of the images associated with this novel archived on Visual Haggard: The Illustration Archive. These tags must conform to the standards and conventions established during class discussion, and in secondary sources like the Library of Congress Subject Headings; the J. Paul Getty Trust’s Categories for the Description of Works of Art and the Visual Resources Association. Groups will use this dataset to create at least three visualizations that make an argument about that data. Finally, students will write a statement (1,000 words) reflecting on the assignment and explaining which of these visualizations reveals the most compelling, surprising, and/ or historically significant argument about their data.

What is Data Visualization?

According to Andy Kirk’s Seeing Data, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and hosted by the University of Sheffield,

Visualisations aim to help people make sense of and explore data. Experts believe representing data in visual ways can help communicate what the data means. It can also allow people the opportunity to analyse and examine large datasets, which would otherwise be difficult to understand. (“What is Data Visualization”)


This assignment challenges students in four ways:

  • First, it asks students to understand and use the conventions of metadata creation for images.
  • Second, it asks students to think and write critically about the categorization and visualization of large datasets.
  • Third, it asks students to apply course themes to the analysis of fiction.
  • Fourth, it asks students to coordinate decisions and execute them as a group.

H. Rider Haggard Novel & Illustrations

Groups will select and read novels written by H. Rider Haggard. The text of these novels is freely available on Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and/or Google Books. All group members must read their assigned novel in its entirety. While reading these texts, I suggest that students use the illustration archive Visual Haggard to experience them graphically. Because illustrations were meant to be seen as the plot progressed it is unwise to reserve seeing them to a later time.

Descriptive Metadata Tags

Using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, groups will create a spreadsheet listing all the illustrations available on Visual Haggard for their assigned novel. Groups will write descriptive tags for each of these illustrations.

Information to Include in Tags:

  • All objects in the illustration (window, horse, hat, tree)
  • Setting (Continent, Country, House, Forest)
  • Full names of characters depicted
  • Posture and expression of characters
  • Critical themes: Race, Gender, Religion
  • Style of art
  • Number of human figures (e.g. 1 figure, 3 figures, crowd)


General layout for illustration tags (instructions).


Once groups complete their list of tags they will use this data to create three separate visualizations. I suggest students review visualization types and options using Douglas Armstrong’s D3 Gallery on Github, Andy Kirk’s Visualising Dataand A Periodic Table of Visualization Methods. Be creative and brainstorm as many visualization ideas and hypotheses as possible. Each visualization will have a different header (stating your thesis), and will grapple with different portions of the data. Keep the acronym ASK in mind during this process (Accuracy, Story, Knowledge). Although all of your visualizations should be Accurate, think about the different types of Stories and the different forms of Knowledge your visualizations might create. While groups must try out several options, each team must determine which visualization of the three they prefer and be able to explain why.

Visualizations are arguments about datasets. Creating visualizations will enable groups to think both critically and creatively about the implications of their metadata. An important component of this artifact is justifying how to make sense of their data in order to identify pertinent trends and patterns.

Because descriptive metadata tags are always subjective interpretations, each group must justify the decisions they make for creating and visualizing their information. For example, if the same illustration appears in several editions, groups will have to decide if the tags accompanying this image should be counted multiple times in a visualization. Moreover, because each novel has a complex and distinctive graphic history, groups should come up with strategies to visualize their text’s content in unique ways. If full-page illustrations tend to have different tags than illustrations embedded in the text, consider using your visualization to compare these illustration types. Visualizations might also identify how the tags associated with illustrations created by multiple artists differ.

Visualizations must include:

  • Header (mention illustration, title of book, and possibly Haggard and the illustrator’s name)
  • Legend stating pertinent explanatory information; the data’s source (Visual Haggard, others?); and creators (names of group members).

Supporting Statement

As a group, reflect on the process of creating your visualizations in a 2-3 page (1,000 word) supporting statement. How did your teammates decide which visualization reveals the most interesting argument? What did your group notice about the dataset? What were the major differences between your several visualizations? What argument does this dataset allow you to make about the illustrations created to accompany Haggard’s novel? What patterns do you notice in these illustrations?


Students will submit their final project as a dossier. For the context of this assignment a dossier is merely a bundle of some kind. Some groups may wish to package their project into one PDF with multiple pages (resembling a white paper document). Others may submit each file necessary to fulfilling the assignment separately. In short, how your team presents your findings will be up to your group, as long as I receive all necessary parts. Only one representative from each team should submit the dossier on T-Square.

List of Books


  • Allan and the Holy Flower
  • Allan Quatermain
  • Allan’s Wife
  • Beatrice
  • Benita
  • Black Heart and White Heart and Other Stories
  • The Brethren
  • Cleopatra
  • Dawn
  • Eric Brighteyes
  • Fair Margaret
  • The Heart of the World
  • Jess
  • She: A History of Adventure
  • Joan Haste
  • Lysbeth, A Tale of the Dutch
  • Maiwa’s Revenge
  • Marie
  • Montezuma’s Daughter
  • Mr. Meeson’s Will
  • Nada the Lilly
  • Pearl Maiden: A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem
  • The People of the Mist
  • Swallow
  • The Witch’s Head
  • The Wizard
  • The World’s Desire


Monday 2/13 by 5:oo pm: Assign groups.

Sunday 2/18 at 1:00 pm: Release Google form for selecting a Haggard novel.

Wednesday 2/22 at 1:00 pm: Deadline for selecting Haggard novels. I will assign novels to any remaining groups.

Monday 3/13 during class: Have your spreadsheet list of illustration tags completed for class.

Wednesday 3/15 during class: Bring a digital copy of at least one data visualization to project on the screen, and discuss with the class. Samples should be as complete as possible (include header, scale, color, etc.). Teams will explain the decisions they made in creating this data visualization verbally.

Friday 3/17: Complete Digital Dossier due. Dossiers must be in PDF format and must include 1) A link to your team’s spread sheet, 2) Three color visualizations, 3) A supporting statement.


  1. Reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses in completing the project.
  2. Describe the methods and modes that were the focus of your communicative work in the project.
  3. Articulate areas and strategies you would like to focus on for continued improvement.
  4. What is your argument or purpose, and how did you make the argument or purpose visible in your artifact?
  5. Who is the intended audience for your artifact, and why? How is your choice of audience reflected in your artifact?
  6. What are the defining features of the genre or media that you are using in this project, and how do you make use of these features?
  7. What was your role or title in this group assignment? How did you contribute to completing this project? What could you have done better to support your team? Do you want to share anything about your experience working in this group?