When taking inventory of our ecological system, one has to include the artifacts that shape its development and contribute to its sustenance. Artifacts that extend the vision either outward or inward (such as the telescope or the microscope) augment an organism's perceptual capacity. One cannot obviate the fact that they also act as filters between the organism and the thing being observed. (A.D. Coleman has referred to the result as lens-derived understanding .) In the case of the computer, at this point in time, it could be said that binary logic is the filter through which all information is sifted. At its simplest, a space-as-information model is realized pictorially in computer graphics (at least in raster graphics) through the manipulation of numerical values and coordinates that indicate position, boundaries and fill. One of the crucial differences between this model and the one available through traditional pictorial representation is that the computer provides the user with the ability to dynamically alter the point of view from which an object is represented. I have explored this potential by using the computer to create a hypermedia application, A Simultaneous View of History. Within the intellectual space of the application, I have compiled sources related to the practice of visualization by European explorers in sixteenth-century America. I have also reconstructed some of the scientific techniques that these explorers utilized in the gathering of this data.
Visualization is the assimilation of data into an image by the human visual system. Modern scientific visualization makes use of the computer to render an image from data that otherwise would not be accessible through normal perception. In many cases, this inaccessibility is due to the magnitude of the subject matter being studied. It is important to remember is that it is we who create categories and decide what is important to render visually. My interest in visualization stems from the hypothesis that, although we live in an era of technological innovation, our modes of thought regarding data investigation and interpretation are left over from other eras . I believe that it is the role of the artist to envision new forms of human agency. Visualization through the computer can open a new formal discourse for artists. However, it is very easy to let ourselves be seduced by technology. We must not forget that, as producers of technology, we bring our own biases to its design. I chose the title with the intention of highlighting the type of polyphonic discourse that can result from presenting information about the same topic from diverse views. A Simultaneous View of History also refers to the process of presenting information through the concurrent use of diverse formats, such as text, graphics, audio and video.
I created the work for use by researchers, software developers and other artists. The database should also prove useful for educators building curricula about Latin American culture .
The Project A Simultaneous View of History is a database containing primary and secondary sources pertaining to the early colonial history of Latin America. Primary and secondary sources are organized in separate modules. The database can also be searched by topic. The Relaciones Geograficas de America , a collection of the replies by local officials in Central and South America to a standard questionnaire, form the core of the textual and graphical primary sources.
Several versions of this questionnaire were developed by imperial bureaucrats in Madrid between 1569 and 1586. The version used in this study is referred to as the Questionnaire of 1577 and was developed by Juan Lopez de Velasco. (See Fig. 1) The Questionnaire of 1577 stands out from the others because of the number of responses it elicited. The database also includes writings pertaining to the scientific practice of Lopez de Velasco and a selection of texts by a variety of cosmographers. I selected these texts because their authors were Lopez de Velasco's contemporaries and collaborated with him in Spain's systematic survey of its newly conquered lands. Excerpts from Historia Natural de las Cosas de la Nueva España, an illustrated chronicle created in approximately 1575 by native artists working for Fray Francisco de Sahagun, are also among the primary sources. These excerpts elucidate information from an autochthonous point of view. I also included a sample from the drawings of John White, who was the first governor of Virginia, in order to demonstrate the complex economic and political interests present in the region . Among the secondary sources I included are articles written by scholars about the Relaciones Geograficas and modern depictions of some of the artifacts that are described in the primary sources. I attempted to limit the primary sources to a narrow historical period; most of them are documents originating between 1575 and 1600. Technically, the application is composed of multimedia datasets . I used graphics to illustrate, expand on and reconstruct the subjects of the various texts. The engraving in Fig. 2, for example, illustrates what the city of San Juan might have looked like in the late sixteenth century. An audiotrack provides partial English translations of the material.
I used hypermedia to create an environment that allows for the simultaneous presentation of diverse texts. The participant is able to view/hear various versions of a single subject. These versions include original transcriptions, English translations and commentaries on the primary sources. The application provides the user with the ability to perform Boolean searches, or searches for selected information, and it monitors the user's pathway through the database in order to facilitate orientation.
In the 1920s, archeologist Zellia Nuttall attempted to apply a similar analysis to the Relaciones Geograficas, comparing responses to the Questionnaire from three settlements. She recognized the importance of the information that integration and cross-comparison of responses from different locations could yield. Her use of graphics to expand on the data provided information that would otherwise be unavailable, as these cultures were in transition from a pictographic to a written system of notation .
The Mercator projection places Europe at the center of the world and exaggerates its size, while relatively diminishing the extent of Africa, the Americas, and the southern hemisphere in general. It is not trivial to suggest that the North-South debate begins with this projection. One historian of cartography cites the Mercator projection as an example of the `geopolitical prophecy' of colonialism .
Those who attempt to engage in an archeology of history might want to examine texts with a view toward investigating the congruence between the various interpretations of a history. They might also consider the potential presence of diverse layers that are not readily apparent in the historical narrative. Popular history engendered by oral traditions often diverges from the history recorded in formal or sacred books, which is usually coopted by the state and utilized as an instrument of legitimacy.
Because of its information-processing capabilities, computer technology has been successfully employed in areas involving textual and semantic analysis . The next steps could focus on finding ways of using the computer to sift, filter, gradually expose layers and evoke the diverse voices present in historical discourse.
The existence of palimpsests leads us to reflect on remnants of other cultures and different world views. The palimpsest came out of an insular world in which recorded information was a precious commodity. Writing materials were not generally available, few knew how to read or write and information was not readily shared. At a more abstract level, the concept of palimpsest history has been used to describe the ways in which recent literary forms, such as the novel, make use of history as itself as fiction .
I use the idea of a palimpsest view of history to see history as a dynamic process involving the writing, erasing and subsequent inscriptions of layers of discourse over previous layers. A palimpsest view of history displays the discourses that are hidden in the crevices. It illumines versions that have been either pushed to the background or altogether obliterated. It postulates that a remedy to problems of access, bias and obliteration could be found in the creation of electronic repositories that allow for storage and wide dissemination of the knowledge that is humanity's heritage. It envisions electronic environments in which information-processing tools such as templates will be able to access and present data according to criteria established by the viewer .
The production of palimpsests ended with the invention of paper, its widespread availability and use, the invention of the printing press and the rise of a scholastic culture devoted to the production of books. These changes ushered in the 400-year-old model that Western culture has used to negotiate the recording and apportionment of knowledge. In this model, text is organized sequentially into pages that are gathered together in a self-contained unit known as a book.
The development of new information technologies is bringing about changes similar in magnitude to the ones just described. Hypertext is one such recently developed technology that allows for a new form of design and production of information structures. Often defined as "non-sequential writing" hypertext allows the reader to dynamically alter the manner in which information is presented . This means that the task of reading no longer has to follow a sequential order. Textual material can now be accessed in an associative manner. Hypermedia is the term used to denote a superset of hypertext that includes other media objects such as graphics and sound. Hypermedia technology provides authors with the potential to create a document that can impart an array of sensory experiences.
A hypertext document can only be presented on a computer screen. It can mimic a book and may seem to occupy the traditional x,y coordinates of a page. It may even use the organizational conventions of the scholastic tradition, such as a table of contents, chapters and pagination. This semblance, however, masks hypertext's radical departures from this tradition. Hypertext's restructuring of information signals the collapse of the page as a physically delimiting agent and the end of the book as a unit of physical enclosure. In the electronic landscape of hypertext, documents can be designed so that the reader is an active entity free to choose his/her trajectory. Theoretically, all references can be made accessible through links, allowing the interested reader to explore other materials that inform the text. The hypertext author is free to include multiple iterations of the same subject as seen from different points of view. In Landow's words, the resulting condition liberates the text from psychological,sociological and historical determinism and opens it "to an apparently infinite play of relationships" . It may be possible to use this new ability to superimpose layers of text and to access other texts from within a text as a kind of ultraviolet lamp, revealing hidden voices in the palimpsest of historical narrative.
Understanding this empirical duty as the scientist's objective, one can follow the opinions contained in the "Consulta del Consejo Num. 103"  of 1583, in which the Counsel of the Indies discusses an upcoming trip to America by cosmographer Jaime Juan. This consulta begins with a document dated 12 January 1583, describing the purpose of Juan's mission:
. . . to measure the accidents of the land wherever he goes, to measure the magnetic deviation in respect to the pole in all the places he goes, to observe the eclipses of the moon that occur . . . as all of this is of paramount importance for Geography, Navigation and other urgent issues pertaining to His Majesty .
At a microlevel, the cosmographer was to observe the local geography and to record or draft its form. At a macrolevel, through the measurement of magnetic deviation and the observation of eclipses, he is to abstract mathematical values that will be used to estimate placement of the locations observed. When the documents were received in Spain, that data would be entered into other maps and documents that were maintained and regularly updated by cosmographers employed at places such as La Casa de Contratacion in Seville. Without considering the techniques available to us through modern computational devices, we can see that, conceptually, the visualization practices of the sixteenth century are not very far removed from those of our era. Both forms of visualization are based on a notion of the image as a repository of knowledge. Gathering and Processing Information without the Computer In 1571, Juan Lopez de Velasco, the newly appointed Spanish cosmographer-chronist, was given the task of "organizing and conveniently arranging all the things pertaining to the cosmography and description of the Indies" .
Lopez de Velasco approached this task by directing a series of inquiries, the most famous being the Questionnaire of 1577. Authorized by Spain's King Philip II, this document consisted of 50 questions that sought detailed descriptions about almost every aspect of life in the Spanish colonies. Howard Cline describes the contents of the Questionnaire:
Starting out with political geography, the questionnaire progresses to the environment and terrain, with queries on toponymic and related matters. It requires coverage of town bounds, and for Indian places, language affiliations, native governmental structures, modes of war, historical traditions, and comparative demography. Names of plants, both native and imported are sought, with emphasis on medicinal herbs. Questions on mineral resources are followed by others on defensive arrangements, house types, and economic life. Religious and social welfare institutions close the portion of the questionnaire to be prepared for non-maritime settlements .
Another document, also drafted by Lopez de Velasco, is titled "Instruccion para la Observacion del Eclipse" and is dated 1582. In it, Lopez de Velasco provides instructions for the proper recording of the moon's shadow during the eclipse and includes directions for assembling an instrument used in the observation. Upon completion, these notations followed the usual route back to Spain.
Despite the lack of developed technology and the inaccuracies inherent in some of the methodology used to obtain these readings, the results are relatively reasonable, according to Clinton Edwards, a geographer who has studied the cartographic materials created from responses to both the Questionnaire of 1577 and the "Instruccion para la Observacion del Eclipse"
Jaime Juan included in his report a lengthy mathematical treatise which yields insight into how accurately the experts in Spain may have been able to assign a position. . . . Juan's observations and calculations placed it [the Audiencia Real in Mexico City] about twenty-one kilometers too far south and about twenty-three kilometers too far west, not a bad estimate for the times .
Another major division implicit in the Questionnaire is between Spanish and Indian towns. Caracas and El Tocuyo (in Venezuela), San Juan de Puerto Rico (in the Caribbean) and Zimapan (in Mexico) are all cities that were founded by the Spanish. The first two are the original settlements from which the conquest of South America gained a foothold. San Juan de Puerto Rico was a port for ships en route to the Americas and, later, a military bastion. Zimapan was initially an outpost dedicated to the exploitation of local silver deposits. Coatepec, Huexotla, Temazcaltepec, Teutenango and Xonotla are examples of Indian settlements that display the fractures resulting from the impact of colonization. The map that accompanies the Relacion de Huexotla, for example, depicts a new church built on the ruins of an ancient temple. The Relacion de Xonotla refers to the existence of two languages: the native Totonac and the Mexica. This kind of information points to the displacement the Spanish enforced on the indigenous populations.
A final form of categorization that I made use of in assembling the sample was established by Howard Cline. Cline, a scholar who carefully researched many of these sources, established a system of classification that divided the Relacionesree major categories: simple, composite and complex. With the exception of the Relacion de Coatepec, which he classified as composite, and the Relacion de Temazcaltepec, which he classified as complex, all of the sample's Relaciones are of the simple type. This means that the report was compiled by an official reporting on a single jurisdiction as "he followed the Instructions, listed its dependencies and submitted a single or simple Relacion" . Cline classified as composite any Relacion in which the official "listed briefly the main places of his jurisdiction, and then in that sequence prepared for each a more or less extensive Relacion" . Responses in which the official "provided information on that topic for each major place under his jurisdiction"  are classified as complex. I assumed that the simple Relaciones would be easier to use for the purpose of establishing cross-comparisons. My decision to include the Relacion de Coatepec was based on the richness of the text. This Relacion is not only one of the longest and most detailed; it also represents a major Indian urban center that survived the Spanish invasion. I included the Relacion de Temazcaltepec in the sample because of its illustrations.
The Relacion describes its location as "40 leagues to the east of Mexico in the mountains of Jalapa, in proximity to the Spanish city of Veracruz" . The text is augmented by a map (Fig. 4) that depicts the actual location of the village of Xonotla with respect to the other urban sites mentioned. The town was densely populated, with 700 vezinos, or tribute-paying individuals . The density of this population is demonstrated in Fig. 5, which provides a demographic comparison with other contemporary sites in the continent, such as Guadalajara (150), Caracas (55) and San Juan de Puerto Rico, or Coatepec (200), a town in the outskirts of Tenochtitlan (1200), the ancient name for Mexico City (which was known simply as Mexico at the time of the writing of the Relaciones .
The Relaciones contain information that explains the establishment of urban centers. Sample texts are accessible through a query that presents the various responses to question nine, which reads:
State the name and surname that every city or town has or had and the reason, if known, why they were so named; also who was their founder, who named them, and by whose order or mandate he made the settlement; the year of its foundation and the number of inhabitants at that and at the present time . Xonotla was founded 400 years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards.
Its inhabitants are listed as members of the Totonac tribe. For the most part, the scribe describes the residents as "fragile, uneducated and rough in the understanding" . Their occupations are listed as planting maize, chile and cotton. Some of them, however, are designated as "smiths, carpenters [and] painters" . Who were these people who, as the Relacion states, had, in pre- Columbian times, instituted a court of law with five judges to review cases, who shunned alcohol and early marriage and who utilized herbs to cure themselves that the scribe could not describe, as "they do not have the equivalent in Spain?" 
Attempts to answer this question can be accessed by using the mouse to click on certain highlighted words in the Relacion, such as"Smith" or "Painter." These words are directly linked to texts that open in a new window when the user clicks on the highlighted word. The new text is then superimposed on the text that the viewer is currently reading (Fig. 7). In Fig. 7, the text superimposed on the Relacion de Xonotla is a translation by Leon-Portillo of a section of the Historia Natural de las Cosas de la Nueva Espana.
The PainterThe good painter is a Toltec, an artist The good painter is wise, God is in his heart. He puts divinity into things; He converses with his own heart
The SmithIf they began with the figure of an animal they searched only for the similarity; They imitated life so the image they sought would appear in the metal 
I imagine the solitary figure of the scientist on moonlit nights in Madrid, Seville and Toledo. While time passes in syncopation with the rhythmic turning of the hourglass, he makes his notations in silence . He knows that this moon will be seen by his colleague somewhere in San Juan de Puerto Rico, in Mexico or perhaps in Panama.
Ours is an era in which technological innovation proceeds at an exponential rate. It may be to our advantage to investigate how antiquated modes of thought affect the design and application of the new tools we are in the process of developing. These new tools can be used to formulate new metaphors to better describe both the past and the pluralistic environment we presently inhabit. Through investigating the origins of our current modes of thought, we can reflect on how these modes may influence what we create for the future.
Persons who wish to explore this application will be able to access an on-line version modified for presentation on the World Wide Web. This version will be accessible through the World Wide Web site of the College of Staten Island/City University of New York in spring 1995. It will also be available on CD-ROM in the near future (date unavailable at time of publication).
In 1585, John White was recruited as the official artist on an expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh. <169>In May 1585, when Grenville's flagship the Tiger, entered West Indian waters, White and Harriot set to work. A Spanish source tells of Englishmen on Puerto Rico "taking away banana plants and making drawings of fruits and trees. . . " Paul Hulton, America 1585 (Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1984) p. 9. My source for White's drawings was the collection of the British Museum. America 1585 also contains reproductions of some of the drawings by White that I included in A Simultaneous View of History.
The materials were put into a multimedia format using Microsoft Multimedia Viewer 2.0. A Simultaneous View of History runs in the Windows environment on an IBM 486 personal computer.
Zellia Nuttall,"Official Reports on the Towns of Tequizistlan, Tepechan, Acolman and San Juan de Teotihuacan," Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Ethnology, Harvard University 1, No. 2 (Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum, 1926).
Stephen S. Hall, Mapping the Next Millennium: How Computer- Driven Cartography is Revolutionizing the Face of Science (New York: Random House, 1992) p. 380.
Marcello Gigante and Mario Capasso, "Papyrology and Computers," Rediscovering Pompeii (Rome: <"L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1990) pp. 56--61.
Parchment had been the surface of choice for writing in Europe throughout the Middle Ages. The oldest parchments do not antecede the seventh century. Paper, invented in China, did not reach Europe until 1100 A.D. In the thirteenth century, paper began to be used in Europe as a substitute for parchment, and, by the fifteenth century, it had become the material of choice for writing. In Spain, the first paper factory was constructed in Jatiba in 1150. Among some famous palimpsests are the Codex Obetense, which is located in El Escorial, and Cicero's De Republica, held in the library of the Vatican.
Christine Brooke-Rose, "Palimpsest History," in Umberto Eco, ed., Interpretation and Overinterpretation (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992) p. 125.
What I mean by a template in this context is an electronic format that is designed with the purpose of providing the user with a way to navigate through data. Within the repository of information that is a book, the table of contents and pagination are elements whose function is similar to that of a template. In the new electronic media, mechanisms such as graphical user interfaces and hypertext links give the designer the option to create malleable templates that allow the user to access information in a range of ways, such as through Boolean searches. The World Wide Web interface Mosaic is perhaps the most obvious and well-known example of a template.
See George Landow, Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993) p. 4.
Landow  p. 10.
Juan Manzano, "La Visita de Ovando al Real Consejo de las Indias y el Codigo Ovandino," El Consejo de las Indias en el Siglo16, No. 1, Serie Americanista (Valladolid, Spain: Universidad de Valladolid, 1970) pp. 111--119.
"Apuntes y Borrador para el Prologo al Yslario General de Alonso de Santa Cruz," Seccion de Patronato, Legajo 260, No. 2, Ramo 6, folio 8, Archive of the Indies, Seville (n.d.). In his use of the term "phia" to refer to painting in the context of cosmography and geography, Santa Cruz presumably meant to say "graphia." As the title indicates, these were the notes from a work in progress.
Ursula Lamb, "Cosmographers of Seville: Nautical Science and Social Experience," in Fred Chiapelli, ed., First Images of America: The Impact of the New World on the Old (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 1976) p. 675.
This particular document was produced by the Consejo de las Indias, the administrative body created at the beginning of the sixteenth century to take charge of the administrative affairs of the Indies. Of all the documents created by this body, the consultas were some of the most important. In the consulta, several members of the consejo were asked their opinion about a given topic. These opinions were given in writing and filed together on a record that bore the title of the topic being discussed. As Vicenta Cortes explains, "The consultas were key to the royal decision. . . . They imply the participation of all intervening agencies in a jurisdictional exchange, and they represent a crucial moment in the genesis of documents." See Vicenta Cortes, "La Escritura y lo Escrito," Paleografia y Diplomatica de Espana y America en los Siglos XVI y XVII (Madrid: Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana, 1986) pp. 38--39.
"Consulta del Consejo Num. 103," Seccion Indiferente General, Legajo 740, Archive of the Indies, Seville (1583).
"Titulo de Cosmografo-Cronista a Juan Lopez de Velasco," Seccion Indiferente General, Legajo 874, Archive of the Indies, Seville (1571).
Howard F. Cline, "The Relaciones Geograficas of the Spanish Indies, 1577--1586," Hispanic American Historical Review 44 (1964) p. 348.
Maria del Carmen Munoz, "Estudio Preliminar, Juan Lopez de Velasco," in Marcos Jimenez de la Espada, ed., Descripcion Universal de las Indias, Juan Lopez de Velasco (Madrid: Atlas, 1971) pp. v--xliii.
Clinton Edwards, "Mapping by Questionnaire: An Early Spanish Attempt To Determine New World Geographical Positions," Imago Mundi, A Review of Early Cartography 23 (Amsterdam: Leo Bagrow, 1969) p. 22. The Jaime Juan that Edwards speaks of here is the same cartographer mentioned earlier in the "Consulta 103."
Brenda Laurel, Computers as Theater (New York: Addison- Wesley, 1993) p. 26.
"Relacion de San Juan de Puerto Rico," Seccion Patronato, Legajo 294, No. 2, Archive of the Indies, Seville (1582).
Cline  p. 348.
Cline  p. 349.
Cline  p. 349.
Relacion de Xonotla, Seccion Indiferente General, Legajo 1529, Archive of the Indies, Seville, 1582.
Relacion de Xonotla  folio 4.
Relacion de Xonotla .
Juan Lopez de Velasco, Geografia y Descripcion Universal de las Indias (Madrid: Fortanet, 1894).
Nuttall  p. 58.
Relacion de Xonotla  folio 5.
Relacion de Xonotla  folio 4.
Relacion de Xonotla  folio 4.
Miguel Leon-Portillo, Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind (Norman, OK: Oklahoma Univ. Press, 1963) pp. 153--155.
Methods of observing eclipses at that time involved the use of the hourglass to both measure and record time. The following account explains how the device was used: "In this day, Saturday, July 15 we measured the sun at noon, according to the clock of the city, and a half-hour hourglass. We counted until nighttime. . . . The moon was eclipsed during two half-hour hourglasses plus a few more minutes." From Descripcion del Eclipse de Luna Visto y Hecho en Panama por el Cosmografo Alonso de Palomares Vargas, Archive of the Indies, Seccion de Patronato, Legajo 260, Num. 1, Ramo 3, 1581.
Anibal Sepuvelda Rivera writes, "It [the collection] constitutes the best example of graphic representations of various cities in the New World. Although some of the illustrations lack realism, the one of San Juan is an accurate portrayal of the city during the first half of the century. Although it is dated the year of its publication, it apparently represents an earlier view. It very probably corresponds to an epoch nearer to other Dutch maps that were created around 1625. . . . The original engraving, printed backwards, provides an idea of the size and density of the city." Anibal Sepuvelda Rivera, San Juan, Historia Ilustrada de su Desarrollo Urbano, 1508--1898 (San Juan, PR: Carimar, 1989).
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This essay was first published in LEONARDO, the International Journal of Art and Technology. (Vol 28, Issue # 4, 1995) Copyright ISAST. All Rights Reserved.