Art of Gantt

notes from a creative europe project (02)

Kinda scary how much time I’ve spent today looking for a fantastic javascript library for rendering timelines. It was perfect. Perfect, I tell you. Starting this post not only helped me find it, but also to dive back into the idea of visualizing project progress for project management.

So, how did I find the code? All I recall were a couple of details and these details escape the possibility of search (or my knowledge of how to conduct a web search). Can Google help me search websites by visual criteria, i.e. the website had a black background? Or that the website was a repository of code scripts? Or that it may have been written using the very fabulous D3 javascript library? Or possibly the gender of the author?

See the Pen D3 Gantt Chart by Jess Peter (@jey) on CodePen.

To break my search luck, I emailed the person with whom I think I shared the code. After another half hour, I started this post. And, of course, writing about something you’re looking for worked as a search tactic. I found the website that hosted the code and then used that website’s name to search my email.

My first mistake was to search using the word “timeline” instead of “Gantt chart”. A great reminder of what Gantt is and why it can be useful in designing and documenting a project. Gantt charts look like timelines. They’re stacked bar charts. Each bar represents a tasks of a project from beginning to end. The word Gantt looks like an accronym, but is the lastname of Henry Gantt, one of the first designer of these charts. Wikipedia says that Henry Gantt adapted the design in 1910 from a bar chart design by Karol Admiecki.

Google: Henry Gantt. Mechanical Engineer. People also search for: Federick Winslow Taylor. Lillian Moller Gilbreth. Henry Ford.

Wikipedia describes Gantt’s work as still accepted in management today; that he argued that management’s role is to improve a system by eliminating chance and accidents; and that businesses have an obligation for the welfare of society. Very little appears to be contested or controversial about Henry Gantt. There is nothing to read on the Wikipedia Talk page.

Would a control system for production scheduling be of any worth to conductors of cultural projects? The above video is from the Writing Studies department of a university and is one of the more popular videos about Gantt charts on Youtube. That alone says something. However, isn’t much of art and cultural practice today about taking chance and facilitating creative accidents?

Gantt charts are visual, support efficient organization, and help establish timeframes for a project by giving a sense of the span of individual tasks. How do we represent the smallest units of a project. Think of recipe websites and we have steps of a recipe that can be manipulated to adjust for serving size. Think of a site like Instructables, where the individual steps are pages that can be printed for hands-on reference in the making of things.

Internet culture has long been about small replicable entities; memes or units of information, such as images, texts, or videos that can be uploaded, copied, and pasted without friction. The Internet is also long been about documenting projects.

“The Internet is full of projects big and small whose defining trait is that they came out of nowhere and captured people’s imaginations. It’s also full of awesome cat videos. The key part of this vision is that the Internet succeeds by remaining open and participatory. No one acts as gatekeeper, and it is not just a channel for mindless consumption.” – Web Design – The First 100 Years

Can process documentation of project methods and their application inhabit a similar space of influence and transference? To start this exploration, we’re using a simple illustration of a timeline for each project and then looking at how these timelines can be aggregated in a way that surfaces opportunities for connection and exchange.

Aggregated Timeline

Instead of using a Gantt chart, I thought more about how to connect a visualization of a timeline with the metaphor of railway. Here it is points along a line, but in our upcoming meeting in Vienna we will look at how our individual projects could be synchronized and meaningfully represented through scheduling visualizations.

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