TEI vs. MySQL: Data Encoding Decisions

I was fortunate enough to attend the Digital Humanities @ Oxford Summer School last month, and even luckier in that I was able to present a poster about Visible Prices during the event.

That poster is here, in a size that is relatively easy to view. (Just click to make it large enough to read!) It’s my first attempt at poster making, and I found the task of making an effective poster — one that would be visually interesting, as well as provide useful information to start conversations — to be an entertaining challenge.

Briefly, here’s what I learned about academic poster creation:

1) With posters, conversation trumps argument: It might be possible to put a traditional academic argument (the sort you’d give at a conference in 15-20 minutes) onto a poster, if that argument had plenty of visuals that could be used). Maybe. But that poster would be a work of artistic and rhetorical sophistication, and require a great deal of knowledge about how audiences respond to various layouts. I do enough graphic design on the side to know that I don’t have that level of experience. Far better, then, to aim for a presentation that sets up a wide range of conversations. The point of a poster session isn’t to dazzle people with my stunning knowledge; it’s to create a space where we can have interesting and widely-varied conversations that grow out of where our backgrounds meet. That leads me to my second point:

2) Subtlety is wasted in this format: in a room full of posters, it simply makes you blend in, rather than stand out. I didn’t fully grasp this until I went looking for inspiration, and found the circus-themed poster featured here, on the Oxford IT Services blog. From there, it wasn’t too hard to realize that a banknote would be the most blatant background possible for this project. Failing an obvious connection, though, an unrelated graphic theme might still be better than a simple Powerpoint textured background.

Does this mean that you have to become a Photoshop/InDesign wiz, on top of everything else, and able to draw as well? Maybe — at least, you need to have a little bit of proficiency with them. Check your local academic library to see whether they offer introductory workshops — many do. On the other hand, there are plenty of visual creations on the Internet with rough-hewn, rather than polished, artistic quality. My favorite is Hyperbole and a Half, which is not what most people would call visually slick, but which works brilliantly. Academia doesn’t provide all that many opportunities for being over-the-top and playful – but poster sessions allow precisely this sort of experimenting. Don’t miss your chance!

Do let me know if you have feedback, or questions.

DHOxSS Visible Prices Poster

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