In my Advanced Journalism Seminar class this last semester, my students could fulfill one of their assignments by using TimelineJS to create just that, a timeline. One student did so, with a recounting of the women’s ice hockey team’s season. Unfortunately, the software wasn’t forgiving of errors and proved clunky and time consuming.
I began looking for alternatives and ran across the website Dipity. After playing with it for a little bit, I had a question. Do timelines qualify as nonfiction writing?
If you start clicking the embedded timeline below, you can see that I used New Journalism in the Sixties as my topic. Well, I started out with a brief history of narrative nonfiction, but just posting six entries with photos made me realize I was being overly ambitious. (Dipity provides embed codes, but if you’re doing it on a WordPress site just remember to switch your post box from “visual” to “text.”)
Several of the entries were just cursory, but the one for gonzo journalism turned into a mini-article when I realized there was a debate over where the term had come from. This certainly wasn’t narrative, but why couldn’t a timeline become home for narrative?
Other sites, like Hi, already push writers – who might not otherwise do so – to consider the photograph that best serves as an illustration or entry point for their piece. Dipity’s timeline entries do that, as well, but they also open the door to playing with the reader’s access to chronology. He or she could go through the timeline from beginning to end or could pick and choose what order to read entries in.
It’s certainly worth considering. One caveat, though. When I visited Dipity, I didn’t see any current timelines featured – they all seemed to date from 2011. Maybe the developers just need to tweak their landing page, but you might want to keep that in mind before writing anything like, say, a brief history of narrative nonfiction.
You can click on all of the entries on the timeline or click on the plus-minus slider to expand or contract the view.