In gathering material for this project, we looked at many fields of research that touch upon the topic of time, its conception and reprsentation in graphic form, and its relation to issues of information in both scholarly and technical terms. As humanists, our research questions are motivated by a desire for an intuitive, but rigorous, way to formalize certain fundamental principles in the conception and representation of modes of temporality. How does one represent memory? Or anticipation? Or indicate the distinction between time recalled and time of an action in a scholarly project where the difference between an event and its retrospective impact are significant factors?
The summary of research offered here is dense, rather telegraphic in places. Our research took us into many areas, each of which has its own deep literature. Culling fundamental principles from these disciplines so that we might develop as complete a conceptual toolkit as possible has been a challenge. Moving between conceptual vocabulary and visual examples has provided a striking opportunity to synthesize formal (and not so formal) principles from a wide array of differently conceived materials. In the process, the specific contexts from which these materials are drawn falls into the background. In lifting the specifics of vocabulary to mark "tense modalities" or appropriating a glossary of terms used to specify elements in a temporal data-base we may have played too fast and loose with some of the frameworks in which these principles are meant to operate. The benefit? The multi-faceted perspective that one only gets from multi-disciplinary work - and a much enriched vocabulary of concepts, as well as some insight into the ways time has been treated within disciplines whose intersections are of use to us in formulating our project.
What are those disciplines? The history of time as an object of philosophical inquiry was one starting point. Philosophical frameworks have been well-established since the 5th century AD, with the major modification to these approaches having come only in the early 20th century with Einstein and Bohr's work on relativity. Narrative theory, with its overlapping fields of linguistics and logic, provided approaches to the representation of time within language, and means of formalizing the temporal relations implied in discourse structures. Work in informatics offered concepts specific to computational environments as time-based "machines" whose operations depend upon synchronization and/or coping with its impossibility. In addition, the management of temporal aspects of data management offered a vocabulary for marking distinctions among different temporal features of information within databases (as well as the temporal features of data itself). Because much of our humanistic work links time to space, we have looked (less deeply, I confess) into geospatial-temporal relations and systems for their representation. Cultural specificity and cross-cultural perspectives have been touched on, also in only a preliminary way. In all of these areas, we have found and collected visual forms - graphs, charts, maps, tables, timelines, and other formal or informal schemata in order to abstract from them generalizable principles for our primary goal: the development of a palette of templates and metaphors for conceptualizing and modelling time.
The research summary is organized thematically. Excerpts and brief summaries point to primary sources. Images have been extracted and captioned to emphasize the principles they embody. This document has been prepared to assist the participants of our Summer Institute on Time Modelling, June 18-22, 2001 sponsored by Intel Corporation, to be held at the University of Virginia under the auspices of the Center for Digital Initiatives.