Something I’m Not Doing

The first thing I thought of was a lot of facts, all the Atlantic Yards news items floating in the internet. And the thing that could tie them together would be a timeline. Probably the least debatable thing is when something happens. A lot of people/places/things can be involved and some moment in time unites them. I could pick an event that changed things—Frank Gehry fired as lead architect, for example—and use that as a jumping-off point to catalogue networks and actors identified in ensuing news stories or wherever. The three layers of my map would be timeline, network and actors, with each layer ‘filling up’ the layer that came before—a timeline full of networks, and each network full of actors.

In my notebook I wrote this thing to help imagine how this would work on a map:

Index #1 Timeline. Fixed document, no points. Each item is a link to longer explanation, and each item is tagged (in the main index) with links to networks.

Index #2 Networks. Fixed document, no points. Just a list with no tags, click for longer explanation. Explanation links up to timeline and down to actors.

Layer #2 Actors. Points mapped. Links to networks.

So the first thing to do would be make a timeline of the development of Atlantic Yards, which I compiled by merging about four timelines bloggers had already made. Here’s a random snippet. The Xs indicate events I think would be compelling to map…

I’d choose an event that seemed worth mapping, find a bunch of news stories about it online and start listing actors they mention and archiving interesting quotes, images, etc. After repeating this for a bunch of events, a big list of actors and networks would emerge. I could research those actors one by one as entities (who/what/where/why/how), and I’d end up with a fairly thick description of everybody and everything (that I felt like including based on a pretty subjective definition of what’s worth mapping).

I think this would’ve been a valuable approach—if it were completed, it would be the world’s most thorough glossary of Atlantic Yards. But for no other reason than that sounds really really boring, I’m going to change my methodology. The three layers framework still sounds good, but I’m going to try to make my research a little more active. More on that later…


  1. Of course all those spreadsheets will have value for your thesis! Your new approach — which you and I have already discussed, but which you haven’t yet revealed here (and I don’t want to ruin the surprise!) — promises to be better delimited and formatted to fit *a map*; it’s the part of your larger research project that lends itself best to “multimodal” cartographic presentation. Good move.

  2. I find your ideas very interesting as I am also wrestling with how to visualize and explore the interrelated nodes (who, what, where, when, why and how) of the Atlantic Yards story.

    I am a photographer, and I’ve lived in the Prospect Heights neighborhood and have been documenting the area since 2003. I have now amassed a significant archive of photos and have been exploring ways in which the photos and their meta data can be automatically and interactively displayed, explored, annotated and augmented with new data (photos, video, audio, documents, etc)

    Would you be interested in discussing your and my work?

    Please let me know via email: tc[at]

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