Words can be frustrating. Often cumbersome and nebulous, language holds a great deal of power, shaping our thoughts and actions. This series of ultra-high-resolution digital renderings and animations visualizes the hierarchical structures in the definitions of words whose true meanings can be elusive.
This project renders graphical representations of “complete definitions”—all the words that arise in defining the initial seed word. Beginning at a single point, lines are drawn between the seed word and the words needed to define it, and then the words needed to define those words, followed by the next words, and so on, until no new words are necessary.
By arranging and connecting the relationships between words and the words needed to define them, structures emerge to show how confined, repetitive, closed, and isolated language is. The value of words only exists with collective agreement among many people. Different seed words create different structures, but the components are all the same. Zooming in, we find an overwhelming forest of connections and a sense of how complex language can be, but zooming out reveals a closed system.
Use the zoom tool below to explore details. Follow the tour for more information.
Different seed words create different networks, but language behaves the same way. This results in new finite sets only differing by a few words.
Using the same definition process but ballooning the connections around common words, we can emphasize the differences between words. Balloons form based on the order in which the common words appear and how tightly connections can be packed.
Another way to arrange these networks is to consider how the connectivity changes from the first words to the final words. This method starts at the center and spirals outward, with the last words inhabiting the outer edges.