Italian author and meta-fabelist Italo Calvino arranged a grid of tarot cards as an engine to propel his 1973 novel The Castle of Crossed Destinies. The interwoven lines and columns of this grid were used by a narrator to reconstruct the stories of a whimsical cast of characters who had become mute, traumatized after venturing through the wilderness. These kind of narrative games are not the exclusive domain of authors, as passionate readers—or viewers–can bring enormous energy and insight into revealing the structure, connections and veiled references that are baked into a sufficiently intricate plot. Buenos Aires-based information visualization specialist Santiago Ortiz's most recent project has exactly these ambitions, and provides a suite of interfaces for exploring the scripts and character relationships across the 121 episode corpus of the ABC television series Lost.
Working with data scraped from the popular fan site Lostpedia, Lostalgic opens to a list-like super-script of every line of dialogue from the six seasons of the Lost. Zooming down to the resolution of a single episode reveals a staccato arrangement of bar graphs that represent each scene and exchange that occurs between characters. Cells can be hovered over to reveal individual lines and the interface provides a chronological map of the series. Clicking through to the matrix view switches over to more dynamic network of character relationships and this is where the utility of Lostalgic really becomes apparent. The matrix visualization displays shifting social constellations – how characters interact within an episode or across the entire series. Opening up the link between two characters reveals a display with a venn and bar diagrams that maps their shared screen time and clicking on an individual provides tree maps that situate the character in relation to the rest of the cast. The matrix repurposes many of these same visual tropes and represents each episode as a narrative grid for mapping character interactions. There is a also a renactment view that provides a chronological retelling of the series as a 'thumbnail slideshow'.