Penelope: An Exploration of Woven Data Visualization


During a discussion on Alice Notley's The Descent of Alette (excerpt here) and why we need a 'feminine epic', someone brought up the role of Penelope in The Odyssey, a somewhat complex character who spends most of her time weaving and unweaving a burial shroud. I began to consider the way her role has shaped the roles of women in epics to come; as I think about media that inspires and creates a shared story through the hero's journey, more often than not women act as supporters of male heroes. I thought about discussions on the problems with expectations of women in American society, accepted (for the most part) to have traditionally masculine roles, but often expected to do them in the same way a man would. I want to push back against the notion that the way the world around us has been constructed is the "right" way of existing because creating exclusivity via semi-arbitrarily established constructs established by those with an abundance of power is a means of maintaining the status quo of a massive power imbalance.

In weaving data, I hope to push back ideas of correctness in medium and presentation and argument. I hope to fully embrace softness and my own femininity. I hope to establish that data maintains its validity (as long as its presentation is accurate) regardless of form. I hope to create something tangibly human where that which is human is often overlooked.

A few notes:

  1. I am not an expert on The Odyssey and haven't read it in like 5 years, so my apologies if there are any errors.

  2. I in no way deny that I benefit from the power imbalance as a straight cis white woman; patriarchal constructs are even more harmful to people of color and those who don't identify with traditional views of sexual or gender identity. I understand that my experience as a white woman is not the same as that of many others who identify as women; I hope to identify injustices that show up in data being presented wherever I can.


semiotics of abuse

visualizing maternal mortality count in the US

meditation on translation


  1. Data to visualize

    I'd really like to do something with this data, which I think would work well as a sort of timeline: