The Visual Word

It’s hard to deny our appetite for the visual. Yet the power of the image to draw out our emotion can in itself be both perilous and propitious. While spectacle can have the ability to circumvent our critical faculties and tyrannize our imagination, the visual also the unique ability to cast open windows into truth with extraordinary immediacy. The efforts of Chris Harrison, a Ph.D student at Carnegie Mellon University, to visually represent the intertextuality of the Bible demonstrates this quite amazingly. Using 63,000 cross references collated by an Evangelical Lutheran Pastor in Germany, Harrison’s visualization received an honourable mention in the National Geographic 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

In Harrison’s representation the 1,189 chapters of the Bible are plotted along the horizontal axis at the bottom of the image, with each bar’s length determined by the number of verses. The rainbow arcs above the graph show the cross-references between each chapter.

While my flagging internet connection won’t permit me to examine the hi-res version of the multi-coloured arc (it’s weighs in at about 109 MB) , I would be interested in getting a closer look to understand what kind of markers are used to identify the interconnectedness. Still, it’s beautiful. Even for a graph.

Click on the picture for the medium sized version and check out this page for his other projects in representing data in equally complex and elegant ways (HT: Claude Mariottini).

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