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Visualizations

After completing the infrastructure of Beyond the Vale, my next step was to create a series of visualizations. These visualizations show how population data can be analyzed in order to generate new and more critical understandings of Craven County’s antebellum slave system. While traditional tables are useful for organizing information or comparing one or two values at a time, visualizations, such as charts, graphs, maps, and webs, examine data sets as a whole (Few). They excel at displaying “patterns, trends, or exceptions” within a given data set and quickly and concisely communicating “the story” behind that data (Few). The goal of Beyond the Vale was to investigate the ways in which the story of antebellum slavery in Craven County could be told using quantitative data. Visualizations proved an excellent means of doing this in an accessible and engaging fashion.

Google Sheets contains its own data visualization software. I created the majority of my charts using this application. In order to create these charts I only needed to select the relevant data sets and tell the program which kind of chart I wanted to make. In some cases I had to adjust scales and titles for the charts, but the application bore the brunt of the work. This was ideal for someone like me, who has no background in digital technology.

I did not use Google Sheets to create the network chart of surnames located in Figure 18. Instead I used Gephi, a piece of “open-source network analysis and visualization software” suggested to me by my advisor, Matthew K. Gold (Tools). Gephi enabled me to create a visual “web” of slaveholding and related families living in Gooding’s in 1860. The learning curve for Gephi was extremely steep. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to use the software, even though my project was fairly simple. In the end I created a very basic chart and filled in “extras,” such as underscores, a key, and a title, using Paint. Though the final results are a bit rough, I feel that the chart adequately conveys the information it contains. In the future, I would like to work more with Gephi and create a more nuanced version of this chart.

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