Information Visualization, Design and Augmented Reality with the Graphic Novel Watchmen

Annotating Watchmen with QR Codes
Annotating Watchmen with QR Codes

During February 2014 I took a 12-day intensive course on Information Visualization and Design. The goal of the course was to create 1) information visualizations and 2) an augmented reality project, which had a connection of Seven Deadly Sins, which was the general theme of this year’s course.

I chose to research Watchmen, the acclaimed graphic novel, and its characters’ sins. The project turned out to be surprisingly interesting: researching the characters’ sins showed the coherence in writer Alan Moore’s outstanding work.

How come?

First, I re-read the graphic novel, and gave somewhat ad hoc values to different characters’ “seven deadly sins” in the novel:

Second, using these values, I built a self-organizing map (SOM) with MatlabThe map turned out to be  interesting and meaningful, especially considering my ad hoc-ish method in giving values:

The distances and groupings of different characters make the map interesting.

I’m not going to go the details of the map, since the relations make sense to only those who are familiar with graphic novel, but those who know the graphic novel might notice that the SOM map A: groups Ozymandias and Dr Manhattan together (bottom part of the map) and B: groups OzymandiasRorschach and Comedian together (right part), and Dr ManhattanSilk Spectre and Nite Owl (left part).

Third, as the little augmented reality project, I looked at different ways to make annotations to the graphic novel itself, especially to help researching purposes.

QR tags (or other visible markers) could be embedded to the graphic novel, which could be used to 1) point out relevant research material and to 2) link to additional content on the web, such as research articles etc.

In addition to visible markers, such as QR tags, a researcher can make hidden markers and annotations to panels. When viewed with a smartphone application, researcher could see the hidden content (see the opening image of this blog post).