Monday, June 29, 2015

Wigwag, and the Family Tree

I have noted before that common usage of expressions like "family tree" often extend far beyond actual pedigrees. This particular expression is often used to describe any sort of historical relationship, not just genealogical ones. It is also sometimes used simply to describe any sort of personal inter-connection. All of these usages occurred in a short-lived magazine from 25 years ago called Wigwag.

Wigwag magazine formally debuted in October 1989 (after a test issue in 1988), and published its last issue in February 1991, for a total of 15 issues. It was a sort of cozy version of the New Yorker magazine. Similarly, it had a number of regular features, such as the Road Trip, the Map, and Letters From Home. The one that is of interest to us was called The Family Tree.

This feature mapped cultural relationships, having been described as "a field guide to the genealogy of influence in American life". It included human relationships, but it also included things like cars (the tree of which is reproduced in the book by Nobuhiro Minaka & Kunihiko Sugiyama. 2012. Phylogeny Mandala: Chain, Tree, and Network) and comic-book superheroes.

I have been unable to locate any decent copies, but four of the "trees" are included below.

As you can see, sometimes The Family Tree was actually a genealogical tree, but just as often it was simply a network of pairwise cultural connections. The latter, of course, usually formed a complex network that did not really map historical relationships.

This last Family Tree is from the original trial issue, and shows the inter-relationships of the writers and producers of American TV sitcoms.

You can read a bit more about the magazine, and its history, here:

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