The Bible, SNA and maps

January 31, 2008 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

I vaguely remember Sunday School classes when I was a kid. My father was a Christian Scientist (no, nothing to do with Scientologists) and his mother was a Christian Science practitioner and so I was raised according to the religious teachings of Christian Science. I remember feeling really worried in high school because some dude declared Christian Science to be a “cult” and I thought OMG are my father, grandmother and ergo me part of a cult? Would we go the way of the People’s Temple or those sorry dudes waiting for that UFO to whisk them away in the Heaven’s Gate fiasco?

Well, nope that hasn’t happened but I did get caught up in trying to figure out and understand all the messy relationships in the Bible (because I studied it in my undergrad History degree, we had to know it pretty well). So I really could have done with some information visualisation of the rich social networks in the Bible and all the people and places. Apparently, there are 2619 names mentioned in the Bible so keeping track of that is pretty darn hard.

But Chris Harrison, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute, took the list of names, parsed the King James version and when two names appeared in the same verse, a connection between those two entities was created. Cool. And here’s how an SNA of the Bible looks:

The background is the entire text of the Bible, whilst the names are the Biblical names he’s mapped. Font size of the names is proportional to the number of occurrences in the text. To do the maps justice and see the rich connections, you’ll need to download the high resolution versions (it took me ages as they’re over 100mb each, but well worth it so you can see the weave of connections).

Chris has also been busy having a look at Wikipedia. As he says: “Wikipedia is an interesting dataset for visualization. As an encyclopedia, its articles span millions of topics. Being a human edited entity, connections between topics are diverse, interesting, and sometimes perplexing – five hops takes you from subatomic particles to Snoop Dog. Wikipedia is revealing in how humans organise data and how interconnected seemingly unrelated topics can be”. He calls this project WikiViz. The map below is five levels deep, centred on the topic Music.

And here’s the Wikipedia Top 50 from August 2006 to May 2007:

Other projects on Chris’s site include a set of visualisations that display how cities across the globe are connected. Go and have a look at all the projects and fascinating maps on his site – I got lost for a couple of hours.

Thanks to Chris Harrison for giving me permission to link to his maps!

Entry filed under: Cartography, Information visualisation, Social networks, Useful resources.

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