TimelineJS Evaluation

For the purposes of this critical evaluation, I will be focusing on the TimelineJS tool. I intend to use TimelineJS as the primary tool for my digital scholarship project. As such, critically reflecting on its biases and limitations in relation to the values of the Digital Humanities community is essential to creating a final product also in line with those values.

According to its creators, TimelineJS is an “open-source tool that enables anyone to build visually rich, interactive timelines.” At its core, the tool only requires a Google account to input information into a spreadsheet. From there, users can build their historical narratives using a template provided by the site. Additionally, users can use media from other sources like Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Google Maps, Wikipedia, etc. This offers additional opportunities for collaboration.

Diving more deeply into this using the Criteria for Digital Tool Evaluation , I would conclude that while it does have inherent flaws, TimelineJS largely meets the criteria set by the evaluation tool. Some criteria that stood out to me is, firstly, TimelineJS is free to use. Anyone with a computer who wants to use it to display their data can do so without being limited by economic barriers. Along a similar line, the tool doesn’t require any sort of professional background. If you have internet access and the time to learn how to navigate the tool, you can use it successfully. The TimelineJS site even includes a video tutorial to assist new users. Very basic html code can be required, but if an amateur like me can figure it out, I am confident that anyone can. Of course, experts are able to create a more complex final product, such as using JSON to create custom installations. The site also provides answers to frequently asked question. Overall, TimelineJS meets the openness criteria of Digital Humanities with flying colors.

In terms of inherent limitations to accessibility, TimelineJS is clearly intended for an English-speaking audience. This also extends to support questions, which the site moderators specifically state can only be answered in English. I address this while also acknowledging that such a limitation is practically unavoidable. There will likely always be language barriers affecting who has access to what information depending upon who created the tool.

Overall, TimelineJS seems like a great tool for both new and savvy members of the DH community. Thus far, the tool seems like an excellent way to display historical events in a narrative form. For projects like mine, it can clearly demonstrate the evolution of events over time. Although it is limited by language and access to basic computer skills, all of the tools that we have encountered so far are similarly limited.

One Reply to “TimelineJS Evaluation”

  1. Language barriers are often a huge issue in DH, mostly because, again, the majority of the coding is done by English speakers. It’s expensive to hire translators not just for the support aspect, but also to update all of the interface features, so that’s something that often falls to the wayside. Onodo is one of the few DH tools that was developed by non-English speakers, so you can see how it looks from the other side, a bit.

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