(En)tangled Word Bank

This is a collaborative project between myself and Greg McInerny while he was at Microsoft Research. We have worked together (Greg doing all the programming and gathering of data, and both of us working together on the visual aspect) to visualise the insertions/deletions of text through the six editions of The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin. 

Each diagram represents an edition of The Origin of Species, and is modelled on the 'literary organism' structure used for On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Within the diagram, chapters are divided into subchapters as in Darwin's original text, and these subchapters are divided into paragraph 'leaves'. The small wedge-shaped 'leaflets' represent sentences. Each sentence is coloured according to whether the sentence will survive to the next edition (blue) or whether it will be deleted and not be within the next edition (orange).

For our exhibition at the Darwin Anniversary Festival at the University of Cambridge, we created 6 large banners at about 1.5m wide by 2.5m high. The six banners depicted a specimen plate for each edition, as if pulled from a book of botanical illustrations. Each plate shows both the original diagram, first and last chapter 'clippings' from the original diagram, and four diagrams along the bottom where each main edition plant was stretched and positioned to more easily show the chapters, subchapters, paragraphs, and sentences in each edition.

Many thanks to darwin-online.org.uk for the use of their electronic texts.

This project was exhibited as part of the MoMA's (NY) exhibition Talk to Me.

More about the project from Microsoft Research