Effects of writing on time-related information graphics

Date of this Version

January 2005

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Details

Interim status: Citation only.

Mitchell, M. (2005) Effects of writing on time-related information graphics. Paper presented at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association 2005 Conference, Christchurch, New Zealand.

To obtain a copy of this conference paper please contact the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association.
Copyright ©ANZCA & University of Canterbury, 2005.


Different cultures of the world write in different directions and these directions appear to have an impact on how time is represented in information graphics including timelines, tree diagrams, graphs, and process diagrams. People’s perception of the direction of time movement on the page reflects the direction in which they write.

The research discusses why different cultures write in different directions, the asymmetrical relationship between the left and right sides of the page, boustrophedon (zigzag) patterns of graphics, the implications of perspective on information graphics, the placement of time along the vertical dimension, and the relationship between tense and time in writing. This paper argues that while the direction of time (or the ordering of events) along the horizontal dimension follows the direction of writing in a culture, the direction of time along the vertical dimension is inconsistent because it is affected by a number of factors other than writing. This research is relevant to people preparing graphics or using visual aids in teaching who would like to develop a theoretical understanding of how people produce and read information graphics.

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