Knowledge Visualization in a Musicology Seminar Using Scalar 2




Gerber, Steven K.

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A graduate-level, advanced-topics-in-music-history seminar at Mason in Spring 2017 focused on several works, themes, trends, and genres related to British and American musical theater from the 1860s to the 1930s. A special feature of the course was the construction of a shared-knowledge base comprising several student-written and –reported summaries of scholarly literature produced by others as well as detailed abstracts of their own course-related final research projects. The instructor devised a way of storing, connecting, and displaying the various components of the knowledge base through a controlled vocabulary of descriptors (“tags”) using the Scalar 2 digital publishing platform. The resulting interactive product not only enabled the retrieval of literature summaries for inspection and study but also the visualization of (and the tracing of connections between) theatrical and literary works, topical themes, works-creators (i.e. authors, composers, librettists, producers), significant dates, and perhaps most importantly, the positioning of each student’s own research work in musical theater history within this web of relationships. More broadly, the project demonstrates the applicability of Scalar 2 (which requires no special knowledge of programming or scripting) to a variety of teaching and learning scenarios wherein content (text and media), tagged with multiple descriptors, can be traversed via multiple paths in a visually interactive online medium. While this use of Scalar as a prototype was configured and populated by the instructor, input and comment by authorized multiple contributors is also a powerful option.


Research poster describing the use of a visualization tool to illustrate connections between student-written literature summaries in a seminar on British and American musical theater history.


Musicology, visualization, knowledge base. musical theater