Why Topotime?

A short history and projection

The Topotime project was instigated in August, 2013 by Elijah Meeks and Karl Grossner of Stanford University Libraries due to a shared longstanding interest in representing time and temporality in a more nuanced way, better joined with space and place in interactive scholarly works (ISWs) than currently the norm.

This is a humble start to a difficult set of challenges; we hope others join the effort. As planned from the outset, it has been opened up to collaborative development in December, 2013 with publication of the code to GitHub.

There are (at least) three perspectives on this work, and they overlap. The first is our need to render timelines that account for the kind of uncertain temporal information we routinely encounter in the Digital Humanities. The second is the desire to reason about them computationally in ways that account for that uncertainty.

Third is developing digital models that merge space and time -- Place and Period -- more effectively than is usual now. Our view is that Place and Period (events, eras, lifespans, etc.) are both temporal things and spatial things, whether we choose to model both perspectives in a given project or not.

Both of us have been thinking about this last point for several years, leading us to name a shared GitHub repository ComputingPlace. Our recent projects demonstrate that we are almost always doing just that: ORBIS v1 ("classic") and ORBIS v2 model Roman transport in terms of space and time; City Nature models "naturehoods" in 40 large US cities; Kindred Britain is a portrait of that island from the perspective of the kinship network instrumental in its evolution; Çatalhöyük Living Archive (Spring, 2014 launch) describes a distinctive Neolithic settlement and the scientific and interpretive scholarship of its investigators. All are places, and all representations entirely bound up with their temporality as well as their "placiality."