Friday, 17 December 2010

Ben Fry's watching the evolution of the Origin of Species

Ben Fry, co-inventor of Processing, has created an intriguing visualisation of the chapters of Darwin’s Origin of Species, showing how they alter between each of the six editions that Darwin produced between 1859 and 1876.
Ben Fry. 2010. On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces.
Used with permission.
These are not representations of time as such, but representations of change. Ben writes:
The idea that we can actually see change over time in a person’s thinking is fascinating. Darwin scholars are of course familiar with this story, but here we can view it directly, both on a macro-level as it animates, or word-by-word as we examine pieces of the text more closely.
This is where the hidden depths of the project lie. At first sight ‘just’ a visualisation, this is actually an interface to the full text of all the editions, based on van Wyhe et al.’s Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online.

Ben has written a book for O'Reilly Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment based on his 2004 PhD dissertation at the MIT Media Lab Computational Information Design [PDF].

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