VizStory: tooling up for visual narratives

One of the challenges the Virtual Shanghai Project has tried to meet is designing a tool tailored for the production of visual narratives. This ambition has been running through the project from the beginning. Our upcoming tool, VizStory, soon to be unveiled, will take up this challenge.

Before we give a preview, let’s go back in time for a minute. In its 1.0 version, one of the original features of the Virtual Shanghai platform was its first tool for visual narratives, iSlide, conceived and designed by Gérald Foliot and Christian Henriot.

List of Visual narratives in Virtual Shanghai 1.0 (iSlide)

List of Visual narratives in Virtual Shanghai 1.0 (iSlide)

What were its main characteristics? The first feature was that it was plugged in the image databases (photographs, maps) from which it could retrieve any image and display it in the main frame of iSlide. Images came alone or with text (comments), with captions (one per slide). iSlide could display up to six images in a single frame as size adjusted automatically.

Users could create narratives of any length, which they could easily edit, enrich, or reconfigure. Basically, it looked like a Powerpoint presentation, except that it was a tool fully integrated in the Virtual Shanghai platform and seamlessly articulated with the image databases.

OVS_VN_5While iSlide opened a new pathway to come to terms with visual materials and to explore ways in which scholars could harness images to produce image-driven narratives, we were eager to push things further. In particular, we wanted to break through the linear logic that underpinned iSlide. Another concern was the need to be able to move from the images in the visual narrative to their full record or to any place (other visual narrative, paper, etc.) where the same image was used.

From fall 2013 to April 2014, a group of inventive and committed Ph.D. candidates [Cécile Armand, Cao Liuying, Fleur Chabaille, Liu Zhe] met with Christian Henriot and Gérald Foliot to explore new pathways in visual narratives. They worked through a blog — Histoire(s) visuelle(s) — to exchange resources and to formulate work hypothesis. Eventually, this brainstorming let to the formulation of three main work hypothesis that laid the ground to start programming. The image below is an example of our free-wheeling discussions.

HV_1The design and programming of VizStory, our new tool for visual narratives, has been going on for six months now, with Gérald Foliot and Nicolas El-Sayegh as the main actors, and we are confident it will come as our Xmas gift for this busy year. VizStory handles all sorts of “objects” (photographs, maps, videos, external web resources, audio files, texts, etc.) within an architecture based on frames tied together in three modes: linear, grid, and pearl tree. It will come with zooming functions, as well as the possibility to select and annotate “regions” in images. Actually VizStory has many new features to develop creative visual narratives. Coming soon….. stay tuned !

 Previews of VizStoryCapture d’écran 2015-12-05 à 12.41.19


Capture d’écran 2015-12-05 à 12.41.40





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