Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Drucker and Digital Visualizations


So, not only is Drucker’s article about the different important aspects of digital visualizations and such, but the author seems to like to use big words to make it seem more difficult than it probably is. Either way, this article was very difficult to grasp, so, as a tip, don’t read it when you’re already tired.

After reading through all of Drucker’s pretentious vocabulary, I tried to get to the core of this whole data vs. capta thing. Drucker seems to say that it is important for data to be reconfigured into capta so that it can by expressed in a graphic display. Now, what is the difference between the two you ask? Drucker says that capta is “taken actively,” whereas data is assumed to be known and so can be observed and recorded. Essentially, data is a given, and to reconfigure it into capta, it has to be reproduced using a humanities-driven thought process , thus making it “taken and constructed”.

Drucker not only makes a point about reconstructing data into capta, but she also emphasizes that the representation of knowledge must be acknowledged. Drucker declares that the history of knowledge itself is basically the constantly changing forms of knowledge that we, as humans, have had throughout time. Knowledge has only ever been changed or transformed in the different cultures and times, and so has not been explicitly new, making the representation of knowledge important to what it actually means.

Knowledge representation is key to visualization, mainly because it enables one to see the relationships and patterns between different pieces of information. Knowledge, Drucker says, must be carefully scrutinized and contain theoretical insight in order for it to be used in a graphic display.

Following Drucker’s obscure reasoning and incorporating what Yau said in the chapter of his book, charts and other graphic displays are both knowledge and the representation of knowledge. A graphic display uses set information to exhibit knowledge, but it also shows the relationships and patterns that may emerge upon comparing them. Thus, visualizations of data can reveal new information through the knowledge it already possesses and presents, and also allows for new interpretation to be gleaned from what it is showing.


  1. I agree, the reading was a bit difficult to understand at first, but after a while, it made sense in explaining the difference with data and capta. It is important to analyze knowledge more carefully and be able to understand what it means since representing it could lead the viewer a bit confused.

  2. First off, I found myself stumbling a bit with Drucker’s writing style, too, so thank you for breaking it down in simpler terms. I like how you focused specifically on the idea that knowledge is essentially on ongoing process that’s always transforming, rather than being created from scratch. I think that’s a super important concept to understand, and it definitely comes into play with graphical displays of data/capta. One piece of existing knowledge probably has a thousand different ways it can be turned into a visual. The whole point of visuals like graphs or charts or what have you is, like you said, to both interpret the existing knowledge, and find new knowledge within it.

  3. I have to agree with you that the reading was a bit rough to read, but I think most of us managed to get through it with a bit (….a lot…) of trouble. Anyways, I agree with you that knowledge representation is key to visualization. Traditional graphs do not seek to be an analysis all by themselves; rather, they are made to accompany analyses. Therefore, they act a summaries. However, I think you make a good point in that visualization can reveal new data. If graphs are made according to Drucker’s ideals, they may (this is not absolute) be able to present information that can promote more thought rather than stay as static information.

  4. Andrew J. Rocha

    October 22, 2015 at 7:51 pm

    You’re post really made the reading a little bit clearer, because you’re right, it is a very difficult text. It seems that the most important part of the text was, using your words, “Knowledge representation is key to visualization, mainly because it enables one to see the relationships and patterns between different pieces of information. ” Well said.

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