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Visualizing the Gospels Using Treemaps and the Composite Gospel Index
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Visualizing the Gospels Using Treemaps and the Composite Gospel Index


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Presented November 21, 2005 at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature …

Presented November 21, 2005 at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature


Information visualization is an established computer technique for providing rich, typically interactive, visual presentations of complex multivariate data. This presentation shows several visualizations of the Gospels texts, focusing on the length and overlap (or lack thereof) of their various accounts. The fundamental data comes from the Composite Gospel Index, a unified index and alignment of the pericopes in the four canonical Gospels, expressed in the Resource Description Framework (RDF), an XML-based language for representing meta-data. The Composite Gospel Index as the underlying data source is briefly introduced, followed by several live visualization examples based primarily on treemaps, a "space-filling visualization" that uses size and color to effectively show complex relationships, developed by Ben Shneiderman of the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of Maryland. Our claim is that treemaps are a novel and useful tool for investigating textual overlap within the Gospels.

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  • My name is Sean Boisen, pleasure to present results on visualizing the Gospels Encourage you to MOVE UP: the whole point of visualization is seeing , and having done a dry-run yesterday, i can guarantee you won’t see much beyond the middle of the room Not a biblical scholar: Day job as technology developer and manager with BBN Technologies Academic training in linguistics, professional career in computer science I run a website called SemanticBible which focuses on freely sharable resoures and novel techniques for Biblical understanding SemanticBible is my contribution to the field as an “uncompensated enthusiast”
  • Transcript

    • 1. Visualizing the Gospels Using Treemaps and the Composite Gospel Index Sean Boisen (Sean at SemanticBible dot com) Society for Biblical Literature Annual Meeting Computer Assisted Research Group, S21-15 Nov 21, 2005
    • 2. Outline
      • Visualization and Treemaps
      • The Composite Gospel Index
      • Sample visualizations
      • Conclusions
    • 3. Information Visualization
      • Macro vs. micro view
        • Shirkey: “the overall pattern of data often exhibits patterns that emerge from the individual pieces of data, patterns that can be impossible to discern by merely re-sorting the data in spreadsheet format ”
      • Quantitative vs. symbolic perspective
      • Dynamic visualizations invite exploration
      • Shneiderman’s mantra:
        • Overview first,
        • Zoom and filter,
        • Then details on demand.
    • 4. Treemaps
      • A “space-constrained visualization of hierarchical structures” developed by Ben Shneiderman (University of Maryland Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory)
        • Software is available for non-commercial use at /
      • Web examples:
        • (stock performance by industry)
        • (Google News)
    • 5. The Composite Gospel Index (CGI)
      • A unified account for representing the Gospel accounts
        • XML data structure
          • Standards based to encourage re-use
          • Supports Web presentation and hyper-linking
          • Supports automated processing of texts and related features
        • A reference scheme and abstraction layer
      • Downloadable from
    • 6. An Example CGI Pericope
      • ID : Pericope.041.Mark
      • R e f e r e n c e : Mark.1.14-Mark.1.15
      Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel." ID : Pericope.041.Luke R e f e r e n c e : Luke .4.14-Luke.4.15 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. PericopeSources ID : Pericope.041.Matt R e f e r e n c e : Matt.4.12-Matt.4.17 ID : Pericope.041.John R e f e r e n c e : John.4.43-John.4.45 ID: Pericope.041 Title: Jesus preaches in Galilee NextBySource : Pericope.044 PreviousBySource : Pericope.040 PreviousBySource : Pericope.027 NextBySource : Pericope.043 Previous : Pericope.040
    • 7. Constructive Principles
      • Division
        • Thematic and situational continuity
      • Alignment
      • Sequence
    • 8. Computed Attributes by Pericope & Source Tokens (n=34): Now-after-John-was-arrested-Jesus-came-into-Galilee-proclaiming-the-gospel-of-God-and-saying-The-time-is-fulfilled-and-the-kingdom-of-God-is-at-hand-repent-and-believe-in-the-gospel BaseTokens (n=21): now-John-be-arrest-Jesus-come-Galilee-proclaim-gospel-God-say-time-be-fulfill-kingdom-God-be-hand-repent-believe-gospel ID : Pericope.041.Mark R e f e r e n c e : Mark.1.14-Mark.1.15 n_tokens : 34 n_basetokens: 21 mean_singletons: 0 mean_lowfreqs: 0
      • Novel vocabulary measures (summed across all Gospels):
      • Singleton = single occurrence of a base token
      • “ lowfreq” = < 3 occurrences of a base token
      • Means are normalized by n_basetokens.
      ID: Pericope.041 n_tokens: 229 mean_tokens: 57.25 n_sources: 4 n_basetokens: 137 mean_basetokens: 34.25
    • 9. Treemap 1: CGI Overview
      • Purposes:
        • Illustrate Treemap visualization
          • Space vs. sequential orientation
          • Hierarchical organization
          • Dynamic highlighting and selection details
        • Compare Synoptics to John
      • Parameters:
        • Group by pericope
        • Label: reference
        • Size: # of tokens for each source
        • Color: source
    • 10. Treemaps 2 and 3: Single Source Pericopes
      • Purpose: Explore the distribution by author of single-source pericopes
      • Parameters:
        • Group by pericope
        • Label: reference
        • Size: mean # of tokens for each pericope
        • Color: source
        • Filter: n_sources = 1
      • Treemap 3: group first by author, then by pericope
    • 11. Treemap 4: Size and # of Sources
      • Question: are single-source pericopes shorter?
      • Parameters:
        • Group by # of sources
        • Label: reference
        • Size: # of tokens for each pericope
        • Color: source
        • Filter: John
    • 12. Treemap 5: Novel Vocabulary
      • Purpose: explore singleton terms in Luke.
      • Parameters:
        • Group by # of sources
        • Label: reference
        • Size: # of tokens for each pericope
        • Color: # of singletons (normalized)
        • Filter: Luke
    • 13. Conclusions and Next Steps
      • Treemaps are a useful visualization tool for Biblical studies
        • Shows the interplay across the Gospels between sources, source uniqueness, and token counts
      • Producing and sharing data is a fruitful area for research collaboration