Imagine charting the 63,779 cross-references within the Bible. The complexity of transposing such data sounds like an endeavor presupposing a drawn out migraine, no? For Chris Harrison and Christoph Römhild, the project became something that focused on the beauty of the data rather than the functionality of the information. They sought to visualize it, rather than read it. What happened next involved not only the cross-references they sought to graph, but a cross-textual process that translated wordy data into a beautiful representation using color and light–inspiring beauty that matches the level of awe felt when examining the layered intricacies of the Bible.
Chris speaks of the collaborative process in creating the chart:
Christoph, a Lutheran Pastor, first emailed me in October of 2007. He described a data set he was putting together that defined textual cross references found in the Bible. He had already done considerable work visualizing the data before contacting me. Together, we struggled to find an elegant solution to render the data, more than 63,000 cross references in total. As work progressed, it became clear that an interactive visualization would be needed to properly explore the data, where users could zoom in and prune down the information to manageable levels. However, this was less interesting to us, as several Bible-exploration programs existed that offered similar functionality (and much more). Instead we set our sights on the other end of the spectrum –- something more beautiful than functional. At the same time, we wanted something that honored and revealed the complexity of the data at every level –- as one leans in, smaller details should become visible. This ultimately led us to the multicolored arc diagram you see.
The bar graph at the bottom represents the Biblical chapters; the books alternate in color from white to light gray. Each bar’s length signifies the number of verses in the chapter. The colorful arcs represent the the 63,779 cross-references in the bible, each color corresponding to the distance between the chapters the reference can be found in.