when genes look like texts and texts look like something else

An article in the November 10, 2008, edition of The New York Times by Carl Zimmer, “Now: The Rest of the Genome,” discusses the thoroughly fascinating (and exceedingly difficult) of mapping the human genome. The article includes this gorgeous graphic, “Mapping the Epigenome” (click image to enlarge):

Upon first viewing the image I was struck by how closely it resembled W. Wilford Bradley’s TextArc (which I have discussed before) representations of texts (click image to enlarge):

Visual representations of data, texts, and, as we see here, human biology, show us just how inconsistent linearity is with how texts work and humans think. That is, linearity is not reality.

I am startng to try to find new assignments and conceive of new graduate courses that will asks students to compose in non-linear forms, to create multimodal compositions that build upon and then move away from (read: destroy) traditional metaphors of writing, which, despite having revision built in to them, are too constrained by their text-based geneologies. Any ideas you have are greatly appreciated.

Update 11/11/08 9:24am: Melissa responded to this post on my Facebook feed, but I want to add her suggestion here because it is spot-on: “You could probably glean a few ideas from http://www.vectorsjournal.org/ or from Mark Bernstein w/ Eastgate.” Gave Vectors a quick look over breakfast. I’m going to have to spend much more time there. Thanks, Melissa!

This entry was posted in academia, maps, pedagogy, teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to when genes look like texts and texts look like something else

  1. Michael O'Connell says:

    Bill Wolff,

    The epigenome diagram, and other radial diagrams like it, can be referenced to Herbert Bayer’s “Diagram of extended vision in exhibition,” reproduced in Alexander Dorner’s The Way Beyond ‘Art’. http://j.mp/6SzAqH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box