Brooke Notes 2/27 (Graphesis pp 65-137)

Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production.


Drucker, Johanna. Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production. Harvard University Press, 2014, pp. 65-137.


Drucker discusses several aspects of graphical expressions, the history behind each aspect of them, and the ways in which they can be created to serve humanistic interpretation.


Short, John Rennie. Making Space: Revisioning the World, 1475-1600. Syracuse (N.Y.): Syracuse UP, 2004. Print.

Brookes, Martin. Extreme Measures the Dark Visions and Bright Ideas of Francis Galton. London: Bloomsbury, 2004. Print.

Allwein, Gerard, and Jon Barwise. Logical Reasoning with Diagrams. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.

Keywords: representations of information, knowledge generators, the rationalization of a surface, the distinction of figure and ground, the delimitation of the domain of visual elements so that they function as a relational system, timekeeping, temporality, Space-Making, spatiality, administration and record keeping, trees of knowledge/tree diagram, dynamic systems, humanistic methods, and visualizing interpretation.


  1. “A basic distinction can be made between visualizations that are representations of information already known and those that are knowledge generators capable of creating new information through their use” (Drucker 65).
  2. “A timeline, with its single, linear, homogeneous directional flow, expresses a model of temporality consistent with empirical sciences. But humanistic documents embody many alternative versions of temporality. Humanists deal with the representation of temporality of documents (when they were created), in documents (narrated, represented, depicted temporality), the construction of temporality across documents (the temporality of historical events), and also the shape of temporality that emerges from documentary evidence (the shape of an era, a season, a period, or epoch). They need a way to graph a chart temporality in an approach that suits the basic principles of interpretive knowledge” (Drucker 75).
  3. “Some visualization formats, such as tables, are so generalizable and re-purposable that their structure almost disappears from view. We take their operations for granted. This graphical organization and it spatial properties carry the trace of the purpose for which a graphic was created…Thus the static arrangement of information in a tabular form suggests that it has been modeled according to a strict distinction of content types and that these columns and divisions are neither mutable nor combinatoric” (Drucker 87).
  4. “Realist approaches depend above all upon an idea that phenomena are observer-independent and can be characterized as data…Rendering observation (the act of creating a statistical, empirical, or subjective account of an image) as if it were the same as the phenomena observed collapses the critical distance between the phenomenal world and its interpretation, undoing the concept of interpretation on which humanistic knowledge production is based” (Drucker 125).


  1. Drucker states on page 71 that “the challenge is to break the literalism of representational strategies and engage with innovations in interpretive and inferential modes that augment human cognition.” Despite her break down of the principles of visualization, I still find myself asking the question “how do we do this?” When bringing these concepts into a classroom, can the concept of to go about this be broken down more simply?