ChronoZoom

An infinite canvas in time

ChronoZoom 

ChronoZoom is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything. Big History is the attempt to understand, in a unified, interdisciplinary way, the history of cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity. By using Big History as the story line, ChronoZoom seeks to bridge the gap between the humanities and sciences and enable all this information to be more easily understood and navigated. 
   

Seek

Take an epic voyage through time, infinitely scalable from the Big Bang to today, exploring all of history through this master timeline of the cosmos, Earth, life, and human experience

Learn

Gain insight from different historical perspectives, specialized timelines, and media resources, courtesy of the cloud

Create

Use ChronoZoom’s powerful authoring tool to create your own historical timelines that tell interdisciplinary stories spanning billions of years or just a few days

Discover

Explore unexpected relationships and historical convergences that help explain the sweep of Big History—and the relationship between the humanities and the sciences 

 

ChronoZoom was developed to make time relationships between different studies of history clear and vivid. In the process, it provides a framework for exploring related electronic resources. It thus serves as a “master timeline” that ties together all kinds of specialized timelines and electronic resources and provides visual intersections of the humanities and the sciences.

You can browse through history on ChronoZoom to find data in the form of articles, images, video, sound, and other media. Equally compelling, ChronoZoom enables users to chronicle history by creating timelines that cover spans of history ranging from billions of years to just a day or two. ChronoZoom links information from five major regimes and unifies historical knowledge collectively into a map of Big History.

By drawing upon the latest discoveries from many different disciplines, you can visualize the temporal relationships between events, trends, and themes. Some of the disciplines that contribute information to ChronoZoom include biology, astronomy, geology, climatology, prehistory, archeology, anthropology, economics, cosmology, natural history, and population and environmental studies.

This project has been funded and supported by Microsoft Research in collaboration with University California at Berkeley and Moscow State University.

Our vision

We envision a world where scientists, researchers, students, and teachers collaborate through ChronoZoom to share information via data, tours, and insight. Imagine a world where the leading academics publish their findings to the world in a manner that can easily be accessed and compared to other data. Imagine a tool that allows teachers to generate tours specific to their classroom needs. This is the potential of ChronoZoom.

Big questions

ChronoZoom is an incubation project that is being deployed in the spirit of “launch and learn.” Some big questions we have considered in developing ChronoZoom include:

  • How do you organize huge amounts (terabytes and more) of different types of data (such as audio, video, text, PDF files, and images) logically and so they’re easily consumable?
  • How do you retain precision while displaying historical information ranging from billions of years ago to today on one scale?
  • How do you prioritize content when you have multiple items for the same time period? For example, an Egyptian history timeline, a Chinese cultural history timeline, an Islamic history timeline, a Japanese-American history timeline, and a particle physics timeline might all share a significant event on the same date in the year 1890—how do you display this on the timeline canvas?
  • How do you efficiently draw elements on the canvas by using HTML Document Object Model (DOM) graphical elements and not sacrifice CPU usage?
  • How do you ensure the same experience on multiple devices, operating systems, and browsers, so that users will have the exact same experience whether they use a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, or Android device?
  • How do you make a third-party authoring tool that is intuitive enough for middle-school students and rigorous enough for scholarly researchers?
  • Should there be a bias toward author-built timelines or toward automated timelines that pull data from freely available datasets and libraries on the Internet?
  • How do you compare multiple timelines and data sets?
  • How do you retain the ambiguity of history? There are many interpretations of history, and much disagreement among experts about historical events; how do you ensure that students of history have access to the diverse historical information so that they can analyze it and develop their own interpretation of what happened?

Potential future features

Some of the possible future features could enable users to:

  • Simultaneously edit a single timeline from various locations
  • Generate internal user bookmarks
  • Generate a chart dynamically to be placed on a timeline
    • Display curve and segmented line graphs and plot events coded for magnitude
    • Phylogenetic trees
    • Svg drawing
  • Filter exhibits based on subject
  • Customize time direction up to down, down to up, left to right, right to left
  • Compare data and timelines
  • Share timelines or tours with others via social networking
  • Display the uncertainty of dates (approximate dates)
  • Show a time range in addition to a specific date in time
  • Present multiple interpretations
  • Display geo-spacial data

Collaborate

Microsoft Research and the ChronoZoom Project promote the establishment of relationships with academics and other partners (like publishers, researchers, museums, broadcasters, NGOs, foundations, and other organizations that have rich digital media content that crosses the sciences and humanities) to create valuable user experiences with this new technology. As data gets added to the platform, others can share access to enrich their experiences as well.

Get involved!

  • Try ChronoZoom to learn about history or use it in the classroom.
  • Join the community to suggest features and provide us with valuable feedback.
  • If you are a researcher or are with a related organization and would like to provide resources for ChronoZoom—such as data visualizations, data management, and natural user interfaces—contact Roy Zimmermann.