The LGBT Political Landmarks in the Americas project is an interactive timeline charting significant events in the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* (LGBT) activism in the Americas and (eventually) around the World. In addition, the timeline will serve as an open access data visualization platform for an extensible digital data collection. With origins in one of the first published works in English focused on the comparative politics of LGBT issues in Latin America, The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America, co-edited by Javier Corrales (Amherst College) and Mario Pecheny (University of Pittsburgh Press. 2010), the LGBT timeline project initiates an important digital resource for future scholarship, teaching, and general information in this area.
Fully implemented, the timeline will offer three services. First, it will capture and make openly available standardized event data about global LGBT activism. Primary source material and digital media documenting those events are used to enhance event descriptions. Second, special search tools will become available, allowing users to conduct custom-made forms of organizing and retrieving the data according to various themes categories, not just according to time. This includes incorporating text analysis and data visualization tools. Third, the platform will create opportunities for citizenship journalism: it will act as an open resource for students, scholars, and others with to to contribute additional data. The ability of academics, students, researchers, journalists and citizens from around the world to both draw data from and contribute data to the Timeline will not only enrich the database for generations to come, but will also help re-frame the often U.S.-centric discourse on LGBT history.
As a pilot form, we have begun to display the existing data using the Tiki Toki platform. Tiki Toki is versatile, offering a variety of ways to visualize and organize LGBT political landmarks. In the basic format, one can look at a timeline of every single event, as shown below. The events are organized into 14 categories, each represented by a different color.
Clicking on any of the icons will allow viewers to learn more about the event. A screen will pop up with the full description of the event, date, keywords, and picture.
However, simply looking at a timeline of every single event may be overwhelming. As such, viewers can also filter by category or keyword, as shown in the two examples below:
Additionally, they can choose to compare certain categories of events. This is useful for examining possible correlations or comparing the frequency of a certain type of event against another. In the example below, we look at categories that influence or reflect public attitudes towards LGBT rights. We can see that despite a lack of public figures coming out and statements by public officials, the Latin America experienced a number of public policy of changes between 1975 and 2013. Cultural challenges to heteronormativity and public policy changes are the most common events to occur out of these five categories.
All of the examples above are displayed in a two-dimensional layout, but Tiki Toki also provides the option of displaying the timeline in a three-dimensional layout, as shown below.
As we continue to develop this interactive timeline, more functions and ways to visualize the data are anticipated. In the next stage of the program, we will be designing a new platform to replace Tiki Toki with a custom-made program that combines the visualization features of Tiki Toki with the research features of modern search programs, and the editing features available in contemporary open-source programs. Some exciting examples of the ways we could further develop this project is to include: online data analysis, data extraction and conversion to multiple formats, support for social media sharing, crowd sourced contributions, and more.
Below: A lightning talk by Kelcy Shepherd and Gretchen Gano from the 5CollDH 2014 Kick-Off Event.
Professor of Political Science, Amherst College
Social Science Librarian, Amherst College
Head of Digital Programs, Amherst College
Professor of History, UMass-Amherst