Visualising philosophical debates

I’m interested in finding useful ways to visualise key debates in philosophy, and in particular, for visualising large amounts of data about those debates.  I think a good visualisation method would aid in both the learning and reviewing of that material, as well as providing a great way into the topic for others.

My first attempt at this was the interactive, partially annotated bibliography for Frankfurt-cases.

The material for the bibliography was exported from Zotero as a BibTex file.  (Overviews and summaries were stored in Zotero as notes and were exported as part of that file).  The BibTex file was cleaned up using a few scripts, and was then fed into Citeline to produce the bibliography.

The most basic level of information is simply inclusion in the bibliography; if it’s included, it’s relevant.  Next the articles get tagged,  and can be searched and filtered by the tag.  A roughly 1-sentence long overview is the next stage, and finally I write a summary.  I envisage each of these being of some use when I return to the material after a long break, hopefully aiding in getting back up to speed quickly (as well as having already aided in my consolidation of the material).

One way the bibliography might’ve been able to be manipulated, a feature that would’ve increased its value, is sorting by article length.   I find article length invaluable for planning work, and I add it to all items in my Zotero database.  So although the article length is printed, it is not a property you can sort by, due to a limitation in Citeline.  After contacting the Citeline group, I’ve learned this feature is available in the latest version of Exhibit, which is the platform Citeline used (Citeline is not at present being actively developed).

The potentially most exciting aspect of that bibliography was the timeline view – this was the aspect I thought might really be key in producing an easy way to visualise any given debate.  I haven’t found it at useful as I’d hoped, primarily because I’d like more information to be visible on the timeline.  (It is a pain to have to click on each item to see the abstract, overview and summary).  But there is perhaps scope for dealing with this issue.

I’d be interested to hear from anyone who is exploring similar avenues in order to aid in the management of large amounts of information.