Prospect is a plugin for WordPress that enables users to collect and curate data and then enable the wider public to visualize and access that data. The graphical representation of data – whether it be geographical information shown on maps, temporal data shown on timelines, family relationships shown on trees, etc. – can facilitate end-users in comprehending it quickly and analyzing it in domain-specific ways.
Prospect is intended for visualizing large data sets when the user is exploring visual representations of information space, looking for patterns in these visual representations and drilling deeper into those data items that are of interest. An increasing amount of data has become available in digital format through digital sources. Prospect aims to maximize the potential of this data and the efforts of scholars, particularly in the realm of Digital Humanities, by adopting these strategies.
• Build on modular, open source frameworks. Software development is a complex and time-intensive process, so leveraging open source frameworks that provide as much of the foundational functionality as possible minimizes the burden on us.
• Support most fundamental data types in humanities research. Given that place, time and relationships are fundamental aspects of the human experience, appropriate data types and visualizations must be supported.
• Ease of use. Scholars seldom have the time to master complex software tools, but neither should they in order to get their data into a digital framework.
• Public-facing visibility. Public engagement is a cardinal virtue in the agenda of the Digital Innovation Lab. Digital projects need to be visible and usable by anyone with access to the internet.
Our experience in the Digital Innovation Lab has brought us to the conclusion that these goals are best realized by building a platform as a plugin that complements and extends WordPress. This allows a user to have all of the rich functionality that comes with WordPress, and all of its other plugins, without having to write custom code to support those features. Prospect, instead, extends just what is missing from WordPress to make it a sophisticated platform for processing and visualizing complex data.WordPress is the most popular content management system for websites in the world and large set of engaged software developers is constantly updating and evolving its open-source code base.
The data used by Prospect may come from any source – imported spreadsheets, data created by human users in Prospect Record forms, or data generated programmatically by other WordPress plugins – as long as it is stored in Record posts in the proper format.
Prospect understands how to process and visualize the data on your website after three inter-related types of entities have been configured:
• Attributes: Attributes are the atomic units – the basic building blocks – of your data entries. An Attribute is defined as having a specific type (such as Text, umber or Lat-Long Coordinate). Some types of Attributes can have Legends that tell Prospect how to convert an Attribute value to a visual color.
• Templates: A Template is a collection of Attributes that defines a particular kind of data object in your collection (such as a person, an event, an artifact, and so on). You can define as many different Templates for your data as you deem appropriate.
• Exhibits: An Exhibit is a description of how a set of Templates should be represented graphically: you can choose one or more views from a set of visualization types (such as Map and Timeline), and then configure the capabilities of that visualization type for the specific characteristics of each Template.
Once these three types of data entities have been configured, they (either individually or collectively as an “archive bundle”) can be saved and uploaded to another website, which will function as previously configured. This configuration bundling enables users to create domain-specific solutions that can be exported and shared with others. The Digital Innovation Lab has several archive bundles available that address common curation and visualization needs on its website that can be used with Prospect.
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