Graphing Jack Kerouac and Charles Darwin

While working on a few tutorials, I was reminded of this fabulous project by Stefanie Posavec. Posavec developed multiple ways to visualize the structure of writing.

For example, her Sentence Drawings translate sentence length into straight line segments. The longer the line continues in one direction, the more words in the sentence. When a new sentence starts, the line turns. Here are the first chapters of two books: one by Jack Kerouac, the other by William Faulkner.

We can immediately see a huge difference in how these chapters are written. For example, Kerouac’s chapter consists of sentences that vary in length, but stay within a particular range… the drawing meanders and the line turns frequently. Faulkner’s chapter consists of very long lines peppered with very short sentences.

Posavec also developed her own particular way of charting an entire book. She creates a flower or tree-like structure, branching out into parts, chapters, sentences, and words. In a chart of Kerouac’s On The Road, Posavec color codes the “flowers” of the tree according to the subject matter of each sentence. The resulting visualization is a fascinating way to study Kerouac’s work, and it’s an aesthetically beautiful work in itself.

Click on the link to view the entire visualization

Posavec also used this same method to chart different editions of Darwin’s Evolution of the Species. In this visualization, the flowers are color coded to show how the text changed over time… shades of green for passages that have survived multiple editions, and shades of orange for passages that were deleted. The resulting charts look much like trees with fading leaves.

Click to see the entire project

To see more hi res images of Posavec’s projects, check out her website at

http://www.itsbeenreal.co.uk

and this excellent post at NotCot.com

http://www.notcot.com/archives/2008/04/stefanie-posave.php

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