Friday, January 6, 2012

Library of the Human Genome, the best conceptual poem evar!

i found these images of this after looking for a published (as .pdf) version of the whole human genome online. such things do kinda exist, but they involve .tar and .fa files, and programs that i don't have - or care to get. you can find it here:

i was looking to find the whole code to use it for a project, but then i found that it was first printed and is currently installed at the Wellcome Collection in London. for me, this set of books is a better project than could ever be made. let me explain: we have decoded our genes to get a better understanding of how we, humans, work. scientists have identified many genes that explain our traits, evolution, and ailments (mutations, syndromes, cancers, etc). this knowledge is then used to inform modern science and medicine. this re-application of this data by scientists is what makes this research applicable and relevant to our lives. but, this bookshelf is only raw data - a huge sequence of letters. this data can't be read, especially by visitors to this collection. thereby these books don't hold transparent language that tells us something about ourselves, but holds an opaque depiction of how we are trying to further understand ourselves. and in a way, that is a failure. for most people the experience of 'reading' these books must be about only the process of it's creation. this is why i believe that this library is one of the best uncreative pieces of writing... ever. (Kenny Goldsmith eat your heart out!)

the first printed copy of the Human Genome (displayed at the Wellcome Collection, London)

detail of ASCL1 (Achaete-scute complex-like 1)

i still wanted to add (through further mediation) to this discussion, so i created another piece based on this transcription of our DNA. the following is two excerpts from a 2,451 page (printed) text piece called human_genome_map.jpg.

the excerpts are shown here as images because the text, when pasted into blogger, goes kinda crazy. to make this, i saved an image (human_genome_map.jpg) of the human genome from a Google search, changed the file extension from .jpg to .txt, opened the file in Microsoft Word, and saved it as a .doc - the final piece. interestingly, at the very beginning of the file you can read a bit of the code - it says "file written by Photoshop 5.0". in this piece there is a fairly straightforward conversation about coding, legibility, and language.


  1. This is amazing. Thank you for posting these photographs. I'm doing a presentation on data visualization and would to show these images, with your permission. I'll add a link to your website in the corner.

  2. computer, cellphone is programmed 1 AND 0, All creatures are programmed by ATGC. If, as we know, Many engineers programmed cellphones, then, may I ask, who programmed your life code.