Visualizing John

a data project by Amy Lee

      THIS DATA PROJECT is a reflective response to my personal experience as a new media artist. What sets apart the New Media Artist from other types of artists, is data. By collecting and calibrating the massive influx of data found in the digital archives generated from our daily lives, new media art seeks to evoke an image that is born of the relationship between technology and the artist. Thus, the artist receives a place in the world as we know it today, a place that is modernized and mechanized, only secondly for environmental concerns and standards of convenient living, while foremost for the beautiful and delicate impressions that emerge, and the expressions of truth and force of honest emotion, that is the job of the artist to discover.

      I SPENT A YEAR SKETCHING out ideas for the individual icons, line by line. I'd gone off in search of a greater meaning. I found it in scripture. But the life of discipleship wasn't for me. I had affairs left previously unsettled. I was rebellious, a streak of wild. Yet what I found there while I lingered on my days in The Word of ageless wisdom was a story of limits, a history of triumph. I found a reason to doubt what you're told, and to learn by heart the things I can't see. I saw a narrative played out in earnest, and played out in bitterness, one of envy, terrible strife, but also of understanding, returning, and unconditional fraternity. Most of all, there was poetry. Song and image, there were beautiful sentiments amidst an abiding cleanliness--a purity of vision, a grace. The passage I selected is the very first chapter of John, the first 39 verses, a second beginning.

      BEYOND THE VISUAL design of this artwork, I created a web script to compress the 430 logographic icons from data image files into Scalable Vector Graphics. This creates a computer script, which easily handles the vast amount of image data as simple lines of code. To put it in perspective, if a single image file is 4 MB, the entire HTML file containing 400 coded images is now 4 MB. However, the process is tedious, mind-numbing, and endless. There is very little reward for completion of each line, only more segments to follow, and in totally equalized formats--meaning, there is no rhythm to the thing, it occurs with unrelenting regularity. Yet still, the process inherits a tradition of victorious achievement rooted in human intellect. So it is a small trial to bring to life this idea of strings and numerals. It delivers a sort of giddy wonder that makes the science of technology attractive, and appealing to the artist. In fact, artists and programmers are increasingly working together through open source networks to discover ways and means of sharing collaborative collateral both visual and functional. Two such programmers whose code experiments I play with are Gabrielle Wee and J Scott Smith. I also use the code libraries by Michał Sajnóg and Daniel Eden.

      INSTRUCTIONS FOR NAVIGATING the operations I've programmed into this artwork: The icons are designed to animate when the scrollbar is activated, and upon page load. This occurs automatically. The verse numbers should be double-clicked to reveal a line of text. The text is visible for only a few seconds before vanishing. Not to fear, the verse numbers can be clicked off and on again. Some of the text remains animated, and that is intentional.

      ** last updated on: January 17, 2021

In the beginning


the Word,

and the Word

was with God,


the Word

was God.

He was

in the beginning

with God.

All things

were made

through Him,


without Him


was made

that was made.

In Him

was life,

and the life


the light of man.


the light


in darkness,

and the darkness

hended it not.


was a man

sent from God

whose name

was John.

The same


for a witness,

to bear


of the Light,


all men

through him



He was not

that Light,


was sent

to bear witness

of that Light.

That was

the true Light,



every man

that cometh

into the world.

He was

in the world,


the world

was made

by Him,

and the world

knew Him not.

He came

unto His own,


His own

received Him not.


as many as

received Him,

to them

He gave

the right

to become


of God,

to those


believe in

His name:

who were born,

not of blood,


of the will

of the flesh,


of the will

of man,


of God.

And the Word