The Hagia Sofia, constructed 532-537AD
The Hagia Sofia, constructed 532-537AD

Running Reality for Historians

Running Reality can be used by historians to see context around a particular, time, event, city, person's life, etc. While it may not have the detail of a narrative history, as a digital visual history it can provide context in a new way.

Why this project might be of interest

Running Reality tries to show the world as it was on any given date in history and at any point on the world. This lets you quickly place sites in context. As more people contribute to our history model, we'll have more and more detail about nation borders, governments, battles, people, migrations, populations, roads and shipping lanes, and buildings.

It also acknowledges that the data that makes up the history model has varying levels of fidelity. This includes the spectrum from generally accepted facts, with robust citations, down to speculative alternate timelines. There's a main "baseline" timeline known as "Reality" which should represent solid history, but you can also explore alternate theories of events, nation borders, cultures, etc, using branches. For instance, various dates for Native American settlement of North America.

How we're trying to provide for historians

Potential Use How to Use It
Dissemination Our main strength! We would love the opportunity to show the results of your research. Running Reality is a place where digital history data can find a home and be integrated into a larger context. If you would be willing to share geo-tagged data, we would include it and provide a citation.
Visualization Depending on your particular kind of research, if you have geo-tagged data, you may be able to visualize your data in Running Reality, but we are still building out our visualization tools. And, innovative data sets may require innovative visualizations beyond just the standard rendering engine we employ.
Research Since our job is to cover all of history, our depth on any one topic is not going to help a professional or graduate-level historian with your research. We can provide some context to a time and place.

The narrative of history

As a work of historical context, we cannot ever express the level of narrative detail that a work such as a book can. Most historians work in the narrative form and Running Reality doesn't fit this form. Most of the time it has fewer words on the screen than even a historical atlas has on a map page.

Running Reality is a model of history. What we hope you find is that it has an "emergent" visual narrative. As an example, look at the early centuries of the Roman Republic. It started as a blank map. Then the borders of the early republic were added. Once a couple of steps were entered, it began to feel like a moving map. Then a couple of the Roman roads were entered by someone -- with starting dates. Now you could see how the expansion of the Republic to the south correlated with the stages of the construction of the Appian Way. Then we enabled movable objects and imported thousands of battles (and their armies and commanders) from Wikipedia. Now you could see how the Republic expanded in conjunction with the Samanite War and how the road building facilitated the motion of troops which helped the Republic capture that new territory. As actual prominent Romans were also entered and neighboring cities were given proper founding dates and the population data had been filled in, you get this "emergent" sense of how the early Republic unfolded, but in a visual narrative.

How your help can be valuable

Running Reality is both a software challenge and a historical research challenge. We need your assistance to help our team ensure that the latest developments in historical research can be accessible to our audience. Contributing factoids to the history model will be very valuable to the project and will provide citation links back to your primary sources and research material. Running Reality's timeline branching is meant to facilitate exploration and discussion of new and emerging research.